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60. Supporting Kent SMEs towards their Net Zero goals: a UKCRF evaluation

The Net Zero Pathway for Change (NZPC) Programme is an ambitious pilot which supports SMEs in Kent to decarbonize their businesses and increase understandings of net zero. The NZPC Programme was led by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the University of Kent and was funded by the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF). It focused on targeting small businesses who are the hardest to reach and lack the absorptive capacity to recognize the value of net zero, assimilate it, and apply it to their commercial environment. There is also a need to accelerate the local supply chain to enable decarbonisation in Kent at the scale and pace required if net zero goals are to be met. The Programme delivered net zero audits, expert workshops, innovation vouchers, and grants to aid local businesses in decarbonization.

Kada Research were commissioned to evaluate the NZPC Programme in line with the UKCRF guidelines. The evaluation investigated the Programme’s performance, successes and lessons learnt, and explored the effectiveness of the design and delivery of the Programme. This included stakeholder and beneficiary consultation, with over 50 businesses inputting into the evaluation, as well as a value for money assessment. The report concluded with impactful co-designed recommendations to support the future of net zero business support activities in Kent.

“Once again, thank you so much for your support, guidance and flexibility throughout this programme. It’s been a huge help and I hope we have an opportunity to work together again”

Tudor Price, Deputy Chief Executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.

The evaluation found the Programme has clearly demonstrated the need and value in supporting SMEs to become net zero. The net zero audits are a clear success and provided tailored, clear, and impartial advice to businesses.

“Being involved in the community renewal fund and the net zero pathway for change project in particular was a really exciting opportunity for us as a University to work with local communities and smaller businesses who do not usually have an opportunity to work with Universities. To enact some real change into their understanding of their environmental impact and work with them to develop new ideas and technologies translating some of our knowledge here into what they are doing”

Doctor Rob Barker, University of Kent.

The NZPC workshops delivered through the University of Kent provided the opportunity for SMEs to engage directly with academic sustainability experts. The workshops led to some businesses accessing innovation vouchers to work with academics at the University of Kent to develop their sustainability projects. This included the development of the design for a net zero yacht and creation of a website which will allow engineers to understand the sustainability rating of each design component to enable them to make more sustainable choices. Stakeholders believed these projects had the ability to be impactful on a global scale in the long-term.

More broadly, the NZPC Programme demonstrated clear strengths surrounding the business support provided to SMEs, net zero progress, collaboration, and innovation.

“The NZPC Programme has demonstrated a clear need for guidance and wider support, such as grants and connections with the local supply chain, for SMEs to understand net zero and decarbonize. The net zero audits in particular delivered relatively quick, impactful change to ultimately benefit the local people, businesses, and communities of Kent”

Sophie Negus, Study Manager.

As part of the evaluation, Kada, in collaboration with a videographer, created two short video case studies based upon two the experiences of two innovation grant beneficiaries to demonstrate the success and impact of the Net Zero Pathway for Change Programme. This included interviewing the beneficiaries along with academics from the University of Kent which produced two high-quality, impactful, and engaging videos.

Here at Kada, we are keen to continue to work with clients to help make decarbonisation and a more sustainable future a reality. If you would like to know more about our work please contact sophie@kadaresearch.co.uk or sam@kadaresearch.co.uk.