Groups addressing the Net Zero debate are fairly commonplace, but a new initiative has identified a gap in the market combining research on zero carbon energy with entrepreneurialism, providing the home for climate tech founders in Oxford and beyond.

Marcel Seger, a second-year DPhil student with the ECI Energy group, is part of a team who has formed the ZERO Founders Network as part of the university’s ZERO Institute.

The Network was set up by Marcel along with Paul Shearing, Director ZERO Institute, Chris Morton, Royal Society Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Motoaki Sumi, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE).

The group is aimed at those with an entrepreneurial interest who want to bring Zero-Energy Research Oxford (ZERO) carbon energy activities to market and try them. Building on the university’s world-leading research, the team is encouraging researchers to think about the commercial potential of their ideas and pursue real-world impact from entrepreneurialism and technology translation.

The ZERO Founders Network launched in March with more than 100 people attending the launch event.

Room showing audience at the inaugural meeting of the ZERO Founders Network

ZERO Founders Network inaugural meeting

Marcel said:

The University of Oxford is great at encouraging careers in academia, but we need to do more in entrepreneurial areas, allowing founders to take their idea to market and see how viable it is.


The Network has a three-pronged approach: Networking events to convene the community; Mentoring, to match-make founders with expertise from seasoned entrepreneurs and to provide tailored business training, and 'The Day ZERO' Business Competition, to provide equity free prizes to inspire company formation and early stage translation. 


We encourage the sharing of ideas, from initial thoughts to testing them. This network allows likeminded people to come together to discuss practical solutions for achieving a future, zero-carbon energy system.”

Someone who’s joined the Network is Lucy Lyons, a graduate of the Oxford Smith School’s MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment, and who was recently featured in this year’s coveted Forbes 30 under 30 list, in the technology category.

Lucy Lyons smiling to camera

Lucy Lyons, Kestrix CEO

Lucy is CEO of Kestrix, a company she co-founded with fellow Oxford alum Matt Goodridge in 2022. The start-up uses drones and heat cameras to assess the insulation needs of buildings, gathering data that is used to provide energy efficiency surveys and retro fitting guidance to property managers. The company has mapped over 1000 buildings since it was founded. She said:

When I was a student studying Sustainability and Enterprise at the Smith School, I was bouncing around several campus accelerator programmes, trying to launch my climate start-up. But I was missing a community that fit my needs as a climate founder – despite the fact that so many brilliant engineers, scientists, academics, and entrepreneurs working on solutions were around, there was no network to bring us all together. 


This is why I'm SO excited about the launch of the ZERO Founders Network, a community focussed on breaking down silos to enable the development and deployment of climate solutions in the Oxford ecosystem.”

The Network is initially growing within the University but welcomes everyone with an interest in climate tech. They are particularly keen to hear from founders or those with investment experience. Their long-term vision is to establish a programme for entrepreneurial fellowships, as well as the physical space for climate tech incubation.

The four founders of the ZERO Founders Network in a line

L-R: ZERO Founders Network founding team Marcel Seger, Chris Morton, Paul Shearing and Motoaki Sumi.

Marcel himself spans both camps of scientist and entrepreneur. He said:

I’ve always been curious about new scientific discoveries, which has formed part of my identify as researcher. However, particularly given the urgency of the climate crisis, I strongly believe that we cannot just stop there. We need to massively increase our efforts in commercialising climate-critical innovations by doubling down on building adequate support systems for climate tech founders from ‘Day ZERO’.


Therefore, the idea of building such an 'entrepreneurial home’, which we now call the ‘ZERO Founders Network’, was fully aligned with my enthusiasm for brining together like-minded people who all share the vision of turning a zero-carbon energy system into reality.”

Marcel comes from an industrial engineering background; he studied an entrepreneurship honours degree in Munich, at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), and is currently working on an iDODDLE (the Impacts of Digitalised Daily Life on Climate Change) project with the ECI Energy team – looking at smart charging strategies of electric vehicles.

Of the 100 people who attended the ZERO Founders Network launch event, over 80 answered a call to action. In May, the Network hosted its first keynote speaker event, presented by Dr Eric Toone, Managing Partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures on 'The Challenge of Emissions'.

Marcel said:

The launch event has shown there is strong appetite for a dedicated entrepreneurial home for climate tech founders in Oxford. The event attracted people from a wide range of disciplines and career stages, ranging from undergraduate, graduate and DPhil students to senior researchers and distinguished professors, and "equally important", experienced founders of climate tech start-ups. Everyone united in the common cause of accelerating action towards a zero-carbon energy system.”

Find out more about the group and their events on the ZERO Founders Network LinkedIn page.