Work with a university

Working with university experts is one way to keep up with the latest business innovations, including carbon-reducing strategies. Find out how to connect with the right university and what the potential costs and benefits are.

Why work with a university

Businesses often work with universities on innovative ways to improve products, services and productivity. This can include student or collaborative research projects on how to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainability.

Collaboration with universities can provide SMEs with access to:

  • kit, equipment and facilities
  • consultancy with academics who are experts on Net Zero and related themes

Find the right university to work with

Examples of universities who collaborate with businesses on carbon-reducing projects:

Some universities can help you obtain grant funding or provide a student to work on a specific project.

Another option is the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). This scheme connects you to a university who will develop a project and recruit a suitable graduate to work at your business.

The scheme lasts 12-36 months and is part-funded by a grant. You will need to contribute about one-third of the overall cost. For small businesses this is typically about £35,000 per year.

Case study of working with a university: Riverford farm

Using the KTP scheme, Riverford Organic Farmers made a carbon footprint study with the University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy & Environment.

The study highlighted 3 main areas of focus for reducing carbon emissions:

  • transport
  • packaging and materials
  • electricity usage


At Riverford farm, transport accounted for 72% of its total carbon emissions. This included:

  • transporting goods
  • delivering to customers
  • business travel
  • co-owner commuting

To cut emissions, the following action was taken:

  • optimising transport routes to reduce mileage
  • no air-freighted food
  • setting a target of using 70% electric vehicles by 2023

Use of packaging and materials

Packaging and materials accounted for 14% of the farm’s carbon emissions. This included:

  • plastic bags, films and bottles (40.85%)
  • pallet wrap (25.13%)
  • plastic punnets (17.93%)
  • chill pack and insulation (11.79%)

To cut emissions, plastic packaging was removed entirely from many products. It was replaced by recyclable or compostable substitutes. Now over 91% of packaging is biodegradable.

Electricity usage

Electricity accounted for 11% of the farm’s carbon emissions. The decision was taken to:

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy and the Environment continues to help Riverford make strategic decisions to reduce their carbon footprint.

Find out more about the Centre for Energy and the Environment and Riverford’s collaboration.

Other ways of getting help

Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census
Take part in the UK Net Zero Business Census