Sustainable Innovation Forums

Alpha Nano Solutions - nanotechnology coatings

Institute role: Project lead.

Background: Funded by Climate-KIC, the Sustainable Innovation Forums (SIFs) were set up to provide active support to large buyers of climate change innovation products, technologies and services. They helped clarify and shape climate market opportunities and shorten time-to-market for innovative products and services. Led by the Institute for Sustainability, the SIFs focussed on the built environment.  

Challenge: Owners and managers of buildings have a number of incentives to adapt their assets to better cope with a changing climate including cost savings, easier/quicker lettings, differentiation, perception and increasing regulation. There are also a number of barriers, including knowing which measures to implement and when, and having sufficient confidence in performance and pay back.

Activity: Two SIFs were set up: Retail and Commercial. The Retail SIF was led by supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which aims to be the UK’s greenest grocer; the Commercial SIF was led by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), a network of property owners, managers and investors actively driving the low carbon agenda, including Aviva Investors, GE Capital Real Estate, Knight Frank, Land Securities and LaSalle Investment Management.

Rather than presenting SIF members with a wide range of innovations, which might not be required or desirable, members defined the real world challenges they face. The Institute then helped shape these challenges in ways that would stimulate suppliers, innovators and researchers to respond with effective solutions. Climate-KIC expertise and resources were used to help independently review and assess potential innovations before feeding back to the SIF members.

Activity included five challenge-led competitions, calling for innovations which would: help retailers reduce energy or water use; improve commercial building envelope performance; provide cutting-edge photovoltaic solutions; or support reductions in energy use in multi-tenanted buildings. 150 innovators responded, and 18 winners attended brokerage events, with the opportunity to pitch directly to the demand side and meet potential buyers from over 60 organisations.

A case study on the SIFs is available on the Climate-KIC website.  

Other activities undertaken by the SIFs included:

  • evaluation of the current market in commercial building fabric and services technology and identification of innovations of direct relevance to SIF members
  • carbon mapping of London’s commercial property stock to understand what contribution the sector will need to make towards the UK’s 2050 carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets
  • research into behaviour change in multi-tenanted buildings to support SIF members in improving the sustainability of existing commercial building stock through reduced resource use.

The SIFs were part of a pan European project called Climate Market Accelerator which supported demand led climate innovation.    

Partners: Better Buildings Partnership, iVeridis. Knight Frank, Sainsbury’s,

Funder: Climate-KIC


The project is co-funded by the Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (Climate-KIC), an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)