Apply for Carbon Zero Challenge 4.0

Carbon Zero Challenge Timeline


Guidelines for Problem formulation and Working on Solutions within the Sustainability Framework.

Creating and solving problems in sustainability isn’t just about simple fixes. It means changing how we think and looking at the big picture, considering how everything connects. We need to think about what happens over time when we use these solutions.

When framing a design challenge and solution, two important factors should be considered-

  • System Impact- This represents the systems perspective
  • Total Life Cycle Impact- This embodies the life cycle perspective


For example, a new type of insulation material could reduce the loss of heat from a building; however, it may increase the resources needed to manufacture it or install it. Therefore, the superiority of this new material should be evaluated in the context of a “system” whose boundaries or scope properly include the relevant activities and resources.

 An example in the context of sustainable development of a city is the design of a recycling scheme for used plastics. While certain types of plastics materials retain high functional value when recycled, the actual recycling scheme would determine the net impact of recycling, since it must consider not only the value of the recycled products but also the economic and environmental impacts of upstream processes such as the collection process and the recycling process.

Such net impacts are assessed correctly only when the overall system is considered, not just at the point of usage or a single stage in the life cycle. One can see why the systems perspective is important for addressing other real-life problems or opportunities in the areas of sustainable

transportation, sustainable supply chains, sustainable agriculture, etc. The UNSDGs and their sub-goals apply to cities, states, countries, and businesses, each of which is a system. Hence the systems perspective in developing solutions for sustainable development, combined with the adoption of a goals framework such as UNSDGs and sub-goals offers a powerful framework 


CZC 4.0 Sub Themes and Goals

CZC 4.0  focuses on circularity and sustainable innovative solutions for managing the following resources

Team Composition ( Academic)

The teams comprising a Team Lead, a Team Advisor, and Team Associates can apply. The team, led by the Team Lead, must be interested in taking lab scale proof-of-concept to pilot\ a prototype and establish commercial viability that can elicit interest from potential commercialization partners\customers and building the commercialization plan for the technology or pilot the technology in partnership with a government body.

The Student Associates should be post-graduate, or doctoral research students or full-time project associates\post-docs working on the project. Each of them should take the responsibility of leading the technical, business, and sustainability modules of the project.

Team Lead:

  1. The team lead should preferably be a full-time researcher (Ex: faculty, research scientist,) with experience in guiding post-graduate and doctoral research and a keen desire to commercialise the technology for impact.
  2. In the case of Early-Stage Startups the team lead should preferably be the CEO/CTO.
  3. The Team Lead is the person primarily responsible for working on the project and fund management of his team for CZC.
  4. The Team Lead is the person primarily responsible for working on the project, selecting the team members, and fund management of his team for CZC.
  5. The Team Lead will be required to participate in all CZC training and progress review sessions.
  6. The Team Lead will be required to coordinate with CZC organizers for all submissions and requirements related to funds disbursement, training, mentoring, and progress review sessions. 
  7. The Team Lead will be required to approve and validate the utilization of funds disbursed by CZC organizers to her\his team.
  8. The Team Leads are expected to supervise all submissions made by his\her team regarding training, mentoring, and progress review sessions held by CZC organizers.


  1. The team typically comprises student, research scholar, project staff, or other who is involved with the project submitted for CZC 2022( in case of startups, the CTO or COO). There can be more than one up to three associates and a Lead Associate should be identified. Ideally, one focussing on technical aspects, one on implementation/business aspects, and one on sustainability aspects will be required.
  2. One of the Associates should be identified to coordinate with CZC organizers for all submissions and requirements related to funds disbursement, training, mentoring and progress review sessions. 
  3. He /She will be responsible for the execution of the project with the help of the Team Lead faculty and Advisor.
  4. The Team lead Associate will be required to participate in all CZC training and progress review sessions.
  5. The Team members are expected to work in close coordination with the Team lead associate, Team Advisor, and Team Lead faculty.

Team Advisor

  1. The team advisor is an expert from Industry or public sector background who could liaison between the team and the industry/govt departments.
  2. The advisor should be able to identify the challenges, existing solutions, their drawbacks, and implementation hurdles due to technology, policy, and social\legal aspects.
  3. The advisor is expected to work with the team to develop an appropriate solution for the identified problem throughout the duration of CZC 4.0.

Team Composition (Early Stage Startup/ Preincubation Teams )

  • Team Lead Founder / CEO of a startup or to be startups
  • Team Associate CTO/ Technical 
  • Team Advisor from Industry or public sector background who can understand the problems and implementation hurdles.


Stepwise Instructions for Team Lead

  • Fill out the ‘Create new account’ form
  • You will receive an email with a verification link. Click the verification link and set your password.
  • Login to the application portal using the user name and password.
  • Submit the Registration form.
  • CZC team will inform you via email if your team has been selected for CZC 4.0 cohort (as per the given timeline).

How will CZC support participant teams?

The proposals should be submitted by a faculty member / Founder of early-stage startups who leads the team and has developed the proof of concept and taken it to the next level or in the process of taking it to the next level. Faculty who have a strong inclination to scale up their ideas and commercialise through patents/startups/industry collaborations are encouraged to apply. Short-listed proposals will receive a grant funding up to 5 lakhs over a six-month duration for building the prototype/pilots from TRL Level 3/4 to TRL Level 5/6. Note- The amounts will be disbursed in tranches and the tranche amount will be decided by the CZC committee based on the progress and capability of the team. In addition to funding, the teams will benefit from the contest through two ways: 

    1. A guided approach to speed up their prototype with market and customer feedback, and targeted guidance on entrepreneurship
    2. Application of sustainability framework and a holistic approach to redefine their problems and broaden the solution space
    3. The teams should take the advice of and work with representatives from the stakeholders (industry or government or Civil Society) to identify the challenge and work with them to propose an innovative solution. They are expected to research existing alternative solutions, their drawbacks, and implementation hurdles due to policy, social and legal aspects. The proposed solution should overcome the hurdles, should have low carbon footprints, and should be a low-cost solution compared to the existing solution.

The proposal should include

    • The identified challenge
    • Configuration of the team
    • Design of the proposed solution
    • A brief description of the solution
    • The uniqueness of the solution
    • The proposed cost to build a prototype
    • The expected reduction in carbon footprint
    • Expected reduction in water footprint
    • SDG being addressed through the solution
    • Outcomes and impacts expected

Some examples of challenges that can be taken up by the teams are listed below:


    • Rain water harvesting and water Conservation Innovations
    • Water use efficiency upgrades and process modifications for reduce water footprint
    • Grey water recycling
    • Septage management
    • Sanitation in cold climates
    • Sanitation in Caravans
    • Recovery of nutrients and carbon from waste water
    • RO reject management
    • Removal of Micro pollutants in water
    • Sensors for water quality
    • Newer indigenous market materials for sensors, devices and accessories for affordable IoT enabled ecosystem for Water Supply System Management
    • water conservation
    • water body preservation
    • other distribution network optimization challenges

Waste/ Materials recovery 

    • Affordable wastewater treatment Solutions to cater increase in waste volumes after reaching per capita household supply of 55 lpcd under JJM in Rural India and in smaller towns under AMRUT 2.0
    • Microplastic removal from water bodies
    • Waste segregation
    • Accelerated composting
    • Sensors for Compost quality
    • Reuse of sludge from water treatment
    • Plastic recycling/Upcycling
    • E-waste management
    • Leachate treatment
    • Mechanised waste segregation
    • Mined legacy waste management
    • Robotic techniques for waste management
    • Alternate low carbon building materials
    • Circular economy solutions for resource conservation
    • Tackling food waste – how to reuse food and find green ways of storing for later use
    • Smart resource sharing in communities – creating a database of shareable items and skills
    • Sustainable building materials – specially to keep cool
    • Solar and Lithium Battery recycling
    • Newer material with affordable cost for PLC SCADA system in UGSS of Towns/Cities


    • Restoration of degraded land
    • Reducing soil salinity
    • Improving soil structure and fertility
    • Rainwater harvesting
    • Fertilizer and Pesticide use management
    • Pesticide /Fertilizer conservation
    • Sustainable Farming practices


    • Renewable Energy alternatives
    • Energy Conservation
    • Last Mile connectivity


    • Control Strategies
    • Process modifications of Instrumentation/Machineries for noise reduction



  1. At the time of the application, the team should have a clear definition of the identified problem they are addressing.
  2. At the time of application, the solution proposed by the team should have a valid proof-of-concept of their proposed solution.
  3. A solid motivation to convert their research outcome to impactful real-world solutions
  4. Teams\startups that have received prototype funding from previous cohorts (2018, 2019 and 2022) will not be considered for CZC 4.0.



  1. Team should participate in all the training and mentoring programs which are part of the program.
  2. Team should respond to requests for progress reports, financial documents, promotional material, interaction with sponsors and media, etc. from the organizing team in a timely manner
  3. Team should mention support from the Carbon Zero Challenge program in any press releases, promotional material, and presentations related to the innovation during and for two years after they exit the program.


Fund Management

  1. All teams should submit the original hard copy of the bills to CZC by end of each tranche.
  2. CZC shall be a sub-project for each participating team
  3. All teams should open a separate account for CZC project. IITM/other IIT faculty can open a separate project account/ bank account for CZC to receive funds.