On a mission to make the world a greener, fairer place?

The Net Zero Challenge sponsored by SSE is designed to springboard green entrepreneurs developing sustainable solutions to our planet’s biggest environmental challenges.

Register your interest

What's in it for you?

Together with SSE, we will fast-track your environmental business idea from concept to reality with cash prizes, intensive business training and support.


First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £30,000 in equity-free cash and £19,500 of in-kind business support from SSE and our industry partners towards turning your idea into a reality.


Runner-up prize

The runner-up will receive £10,000 in equity-free cash and £9,500 of in-kind business support from our industry partners to help get your business up and running.


Bespoke business training

All successful applicants enjoy a money-can’t-buy package of training and pitch coaching from experts with real-world experience of starting and growing global businesses.


Post-programme support

Once you’ve been accepted onto our programme, your journey doesn’t end there. As a Converge alumnus, we continue to provide you with access to our network of investors and advisors, business support and publicity and promotion.

Who can apply?

This challenge welcomes both product and service-based ideas that contribute to environmental conservation, address climate change and promote a more sustainable future.

Read our full terms and conditions

Staff and students at all Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

Recent graduates (up to 36 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

Team and joint applications are accepted, provided one member of the team is a student, recent graduate or member of staff from a Scottish Higher Education Institution.

Applicants must plan to have their business headquartered in Scotland.

The lead applicant must commit to attending the final investor pitches and our Awards ceremony. Our Inside Innovation Showcase is also a compulsory event but can be attended by any team member.

We highly recommend you attend our training events as past experience shows these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and your chances of reaching the final stages of the challenge.

You must either own or have the right to use and commercially exploit all Intellectual Property Rights related to your business idea.

Applicants need to demonstrate validation of their product/service, early customer engagement, a viable route to market and be ready to start operating within twelve months of our annual Awards in October.

If you do have an existing company, it must be dormant, non-trading or trading for no longer than 24 months with a secured income not higher than £150,000 (including but not limited to grants, investment, loans, revenue, prizes).

Judging criteria

We are looking for projects that can demonstrate substantial and sustainable impact towards solving some of our planet's biggest environmental challenges.




  • Intellectual property
  • Disruptive potential
  • Competitive advantage

Environmental impact

  • Potential of measurable environmental impact
  • Scalability

Market validation

  • Customer engagement
  • Viable route to market
  • Market fit


  • Relevant experience
  • Planning for future team

Resource planning

  • Understanding of market readiness requirements including funding, expertise and operations

What's involved?

Our challenges are split into four stages over a period of six months. Applications open in January and are evaluated by a panel of university representatives.

If you're successful, we'll give you access to our online, on-demand training modules from 9 May. You'll then be invited to attend a one day, in-person regional training session w/c 27 May followed by intensive business training and pitching in Edinburgh* from 3-5 June.

Having completed your training, you'll have the tools you need to prepare a business plan, financial forecast and 1-minute video pitch - all of which will be assessed by a panel of university representatives.

If you're shortlisted as a finalist, you'll be invited to attend further training w/c 9 September and to pitch your idea live to a panel of investors and business experts from 23-24 September. Winners will be announced at our annual Awards ceremony on 3 October.

*Travel expenses for in-person training and events are available. We can also cover overnight accommodation and childcare costs.


  • Application deadline
    3 April 2024
  • In-person regional training
    w/c 27 May (1 day)
  • In-person training & pitch event
    3-5 June
  • Business Plan submission
    31 July
  • Investment training
    9 September
  • Final pitches
    23-24 September
  • Awards
    3 October

Judging panel

Our Net Zero judging panels are handpicked from across Scotland's business community for their unique experience in energy transition, carbon reduction and success in entrepreneurial ventures. Here's last year's panel to give you a flavour of who will be assessing your business idea.


David Millar

Senior Innovation Fellow Hydro Nation Chair R&I Programme

David is an environmental scientist, entrepreneur and senior leader with over 18 years' experience in the international energy sector working in start-ups, major service companies and operators. 

Through his career David has led and delivered transformational strategies across technical and non-technical disciplines resulting in global change, innovation and new technology deployment with great success. 

Up until December 2020 he was responsible for designing and delivering the award winning TechX accelerator at the Net Zero Technology Centre (Formerly OGTC) in Aberdeen.

In December 2021 David joined the Hydro Nation Chair Research and Innovation programme where he leads the development and delivery of a unique technology support programme for exciting start-ups looking to support Scottish Water’s drive beyond Net Zero by 2040.


Josiah Lockhart

CEO Changeworks

Chief Executive, Changeworks

Josiah joined Changeworks as Chief Executive in September 2022, and has been a leading voice and champion of the purpose led business and social enterprise sector for the past 15 years. Prior to joining Changeworks, Josiah was Group CEO of social enterprise and purpose leading support agencies FirstPort, FirstImpact Business and the investment fund Impact Investment Partnership.


Sarah Petrie

Director, Innovation and Operations Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc, Dundee

Having spent over 25 years working in the Innovation space in Scotland she is now responsible for running the Innovation Programme at MSIP which has supported over 100 collaborative innovation projects across both companies and Universities. This has successfully leveraged over £30m of innovation funding to support company growth and development.


Rebecca Allison

Chief Operations Officer Net Zero Technology Centre

Rebecca Allison is an established and committed leader in the energy sector, spearheading efforts to accelerate the transition to net zero. At NZTC, she leads the delivery of critical technology programmes and services that will drive industry's evolution towards a more sustainable future.

With over two decades of experience, Rebecca has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This includes identifying and appraising existing technology readiness, and championing the latest advancements in innovations that are reducing emissions from existing facilities and unlocking the full potential of an integrated energy system.



Find answers to your questions plus a sample copy of the application form you'll need to complete.

Sample Application Form


Here's a preview of the questions you'll need to answer

Click to view

FAQs 2024


Answers to some commonly-asked questions, to help you get started.

Click to view

Guide for Applicants 2024

Pre-Application Pack

Thinking about applying? This handy little pack explains what's involved and what to expect.

Click to view


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Dr. Lissa Herron

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Any Questions?
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