Applications for the Net Zero Challenge are now closed.  

Meet the projects shortlisted for the Net Zero Challenge here and the Panel of Experts here.


Please register here to join us for the live online

Pitch Challenge on April 13th 2021, 15.00 (London time).


What is this?


The Net Zero Challenge is a global competition to answer the following question

How can you advance climate action using open data ?


Our aim is to identify, promote and support innovative, practical and scalable uses of open data that can:

  1. understand climate risks

  2. track climate progress

  3. enable informed climate action, or

  4. evaluate climate impact.

We want to hear from individuals, groups and organisations.


You can apply with a

  • project you are already working on, or

  • concept for something you want to develop in the future.


The first stage of the Net Zero Challenge is a 'Virtual Pitch Contest'. 


The prize for this 'pitch' stage of the Net Zero Challenge is $1,000 USD - to support development of your idea. 

Make an application here.


Read more about the application process here and check out the regularly updated FAQs

Email to receive Net Zero Challenge updates.

Let's see if we can use open data to

advance climate action.

Welcome to the

Net Zero Challenge. 

Net Zero Challenge.png

The Net Zero Challenge is

an Open Knowledge Foundation project.


We are extremely grateful to our funding partners for supporting this project. 


How do I apply?


The Net Zero Challenge launches on Friday 29th January 2021.

Application can be made here.


All applications must be received by Friday 12th March 2021 at 6pm Pacific Standard Time (San Francisco time). 


Late submissions will not be accepted. 

Applications will be reviewed and a short list of applicants invited to pitch their idea to a panel of experts at a 'Virtual Pitch Contest'.  

Pitches will take the form of a public 3 minute presentation by video conference, followed by Q&A from our panel of experts.


Pitches can be live, or prerecorded. Q&A will be live. 



Key Dates

Friday 29th January 2021 

Friday 12th March 2021

6pm  Pacific Standard Time

(San Francisco time)

Make your application by

Friday 12th March 2021

6pm  Pacific Standard Time

(San Francisco time)


What we want to see in the Net Zero Challenge


The question we want to answer in the Net Zero Challenge is

How can you 

advance climate action 

using open data ?

Your idea, or project, must do one, or more, of the following

  1. understand climate risks

  2. track climate progress

  3. enable informed climate action, or

  4. evaluate climate impact.

Some ways in which you might do this include


  • making climate relevant data easier to discover, view and understand by the general data user

  • creating a useful passthrough tool or API for climate-relevant data in any country or jurisdiction

  • organising climate data so that potential data users (including those who are less data-literate) can see what's available, and make use of it

We are very open minded about your approach and methodology. 

What we care about is the outcome, and whether you answer the question.

You might consider whether your idea, or project, is

  • technically achievable

  • easy to use

  • easily integrated or can be provided as a tool

  • scalable

  • good value for money

  • published with IP licences that allow free use by others 

  • explainable (this is the key test of the Challenge. Can you pitch your project in three minutes to a general audience) 




In 2019, Open Data Charter and the World Resources Institute published the first version of the Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Advance Climate Action.


This Open Up Guide showed how the production, disclosure, monitoring, and use of data will be essential to achieve climate action. 


A coordinated global climate response requires the sharing of  information, and while government policy is critical to solving the climate crisis, there is also an important role for the private sector and civil society.


Making climate relevant data open will

  • empower national and subnational governments to develop low-carbon development plans

  • inform private sector investment decisions, and

  • allow civil society to participate more effectively and translate information to less data-literate users.

To help data holders and potential data users identify, locate, publish and use climate relevant data, the Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Advance Climate Action contains





Open Up Guides are peer-reviewed reports that outline the journey from data publication to impact. 

They are intended as practical tool to support governments and their partners take strategic action. 

Open Up Guides identify key datasets and common standards that facilitate interoperability.


Open Up Guides help to embed open data as a central ingredient to providing better solutions to the most pressing policy challenges of our time.

In addition to the Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Advance Climate ActionOpen Up Guides have also been created for 


Open Up Guides are published by Open Data Charter. ​

About Open Up Guides

Why a Challenge Prize?

"Challenge prizes offer a reward to whoever can first or most effectively solve a problem.


They are a tried and tested method of attracting new innovators to change the status quo.


At the same time, they also challenge incumbents to redirect their efforts or think about a problem in a new way.


This leads to breakthrough solutions, creation of new cohorts of innovators, and can result in systemic change.

For innovators, the value of a challenge prize is much more than the winner’s award.


Participants that reach the finalist stage or go on to win often attract new investors and supporters, buoyed by the publicity and credibility of the challenge.


The prize amounts are often modest by comparison."

NESTA Challenges

Challenge Prizes: A Practical Guide


The Problem


Many countries generate data for policy planning and international reporting as part of their commitments to solve the climate crisis.


However, few publish this data in open formats. 

The Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Advance Climate Action shows that climate relevant data is often

  • incomplete

  • fragmented across agencies, and

  • not made available in interoperable and accessible formats.

This matters because the ability of people to access and understand climate-relevant data can

  • enable greater political accountability

  • lead to efforts towards global climate goals being more diversified across the sub-national governments and their agencies, the private sector and civil society, and

  • increase climate ambition based on informed planning.

Net Zero Challenge Ultimate Goal



We want all governments to publish climate relevant data in an open format so that data users are able to use the data to achieve climate action.

This is our ultimate goal.


In the meantime, we launched the Net Zero Challenge to identify practical demonstrations of climate-relevant data being used to achieve innovative solutions to climate problems.


Such demonstrations are powerful tools to advocate that governments make a commitment to publish climate-relevant data in open formats. 

Scaling up these solutions will also then that the impact of climate-relevant data is maximised. 




These FAQs are regularly updated. 

The last update occurred on Wednesday 10th February 2021. 

I missed the application deadline. Can I still apply? 

In order to make the Net Zero Challenge a fair competition, all applications must be made by the application deadline. 


My project is part of a university funded project. Can I apply?

We want to identify, promote and reward the best projects. We are happy to accept applications from individuals, or groups of any sort.

$1,000 USD is not enough for me to fund my project. Are there other funds available?

At the moment, we only have funds to support the Net Zero Challenge pitch challenge. We are actively working with our partners to fund a second stage of the project that will help applicants turn their ideas into prototypes and take them to COP26. Watch this space !

What definition of open data must applications align with?

We expect applicant projects to align with the definition of open data found in the Open Definition. Alignment with other definitions of open data that have broad community support may be considered on a case by case basis. 

If you have a question about the Net Zero Challenge that is not answered in the FAQs, please email 




The Net Zero Challenge is an Open Knowledge Foundation project.


Our mission is to make a fair, free and open future. Find out more here.

Net Zero Challenge

Funding for the Net Zero Challenge is provided by our partners Microsoft and the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Open Knowledge Foundation is extremely grateful to both our partners for their support for this important project.


We would like to acknowledge both organisations for taking bold leadership in supporting action on climate change. 


Advisory Committee


The Net Zero Challenge Advisory Committee include:


The Open Data Charter's Open Up Guide: Using Climate Data to Advance Climate Action was very much an inspiration for the Net Zero Challenge. We are grateful to the Open Data Charter for their groundbreaking work in mapping the opportunities and challenges of using open data to accelerate climate action.

The Innovation and Open Data Team at Transport for New South Wales​ have been enormously generous with their time providing guidance on how to successful run a challenge prize. Their regular Open Data Innovation Challenges provided many useful insights for us. We are extremely grateful for their support and advice. 

And finally thanks to the Open Data Day team at Open Knowledge Foundation who have offered great encouragement in this innovative project. 

Open Data Charter
Transport for NSW
Open Data Day



If you have any questions about the Net Zero Challenge, please first check out our FAQs.

To contact the Net Zero Challenge team directly, please email