New SSE-backed award will recognise Scotland's 'most promising net zero project'

Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector has partnered with energy giant SSE to champion climate emergency innovation.

The tie-up between Converge and SSE which has been stepping up its investment in low-carbon power, sees the creation of the SSE Net Zero Award – a stand-alone prize presented to the most promising net zero project from this year’s Converge cohort.

Selected from a pool of semi-finalists across three challenge categories – converge, creative and impact – one aspiring entrepreneur will win £20,000 in equity-free cash and a package of in-kind benefits, with the winner set to be announced by SSE boss Alistair Phillips-Davies at the annual Converge Awards on September 30. Last year, a quarter of all Converge proposals were in the sustainability and climate change space.

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Projects from all sectors will be eligible but construction and the built environment, transport, agriculture and energy are of particular relevance, given their impact on climate, organisers noted. To be considered, candidates will need to demonstrate how their innovation can deliver maximum impact for Scotland’s net zero goal.

SSE is one of the biggest players in the UK's renewables energy sector, which includes onshore and offshore wind.
SSE is one of the biggest players in the UK's renewables energy sector, which includes onshore and offshore wind.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, said: “SSE is a leading player in the race to net zero with a long history of developing low-carbon infrastructure.

“Climate change is the defining crisis of our time with Scotland’s universities playing a key role in the race to accelerate our transition to a decarbonised economy. This new award will capitalise on those efforts by providing a much-needed boost to a climate-conscious entrepreneur working on the innovations of tomorrow that will contribute to Scotland achieving its net zero targets.

“We are thrilled to be working with SSE, a principal partner of this year’s COP26, and can’t wait to see which projects make it through to the shortlist.”

Marta Smart, head of partnership funding, who will sit on the award panel, added: “We are very excited by the inaugural SSE Net Zero Award.

“SSE is at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency and in the year of COP26, we’re very proud to be associated with this award which will provide a real and tangible boost to academic entrepreneurs helping Scotland deliver its net zero targets.”

Since launching in 2011, Converge has trained 450-plus academic entrepreneurs and supported the creation of more than 200 companies.

In May, Perth-headquartered SSE reported healthy annual profits and said it was committed to investing billions as it taps into Britain’s transition to a net zero future.

The FTSE-100 group plans to invest around £2 billion largely in low carbon power projects this year and said it was weighing up further investments ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. It has created more than 1,000 jobs during the pandemic and expects to build on this number in the current financial year.

Profit for the year to March 31 edged up as the group continued its transformation away from energy supply to the production of green electricity.

Adjusted operating profit sparked up 1 per cent to just over £1.5bn, despite a £170 million hit from the pandemic. That hit was towards the lower end of what SSE had previously guided investors to expect.

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