About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Making heat pumps a more desirable choice

Since the beginning of June, we’ve been doing research with heat pump installers with the aim of identifying pain points that negatively affect their productivity, the attractiveness of employment as a heat pump installer and the appeal of heat pumps to householders.

The approach echoes past work conducted on the heat pump user journey for householders, as well as drawing heavily on knowledge generated by our recent report on skills, productivity, and capacity of the heat pump sector. By understanding the pain points that heat pump installers face, we intend to identify ways to increase the number and pace of heat pump installations in the UK which we need to do if we are to reach the UK Government’s targets of 600,000 installations by 2028.

Since the project began, we have:

  • interviewed heat pump installers and college graduates in home heating
  • developed four opportunity areas based on those interviews
  • conducted an internal workshop to identify innovation opportunities within those areas
  • taken forward ideas for concept testing and further research.

Opportunity areas for innovation

We started our research by interviewing nine heat pump installers and adjacent experts from the industry. We explored the heat pump installation process, the pain points in the journey, the process of becoming certified with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS which is an independent certification scheme that certifies renewable energy products and installation companies) and the difficulties installers face in growing their businesses.

From this research, we developed four opportunity areas that we believe to be potentially fruitful spaces for innovators in the sector.

Right now, heat pump installation firms operate in an island-like state, independent of one another in ways that may be holding installation levels back. There is an opportunity to push heat pump installers towards an ecosystem-like state, retaining competitiveness but introducing information exchange, specialisation and trust into the sector.

Right now, new market entrants have a steep hill to climb to make their first installation, learn the “hacks”, and set up their business according to the industry requirements. There is an opportunity to help turbocharge new entrants to the market, helping them get up to speed quickly and become productive contributors.

Right now, existing players in the sector face barriers to their maturation. Some of these barriers include shortage of skills, high capital investments and high training costs. There is an opportunity to support small businesses in the sector to grow with confidence.

Right now, some installers have difficulties following the processes required to get MCS certification and to follow the code once certified.There is an opportunity to improve the installer experience and reduce the burden on the businesses themselves.

At the project's outset we had imagined identifying space for innovation in the installation process itself. Although we regard this as an area with great potential, the fieldwork we undertook didn't provide us with sufficient insights to work on it. We thus pivoted the project slightly, focusing on opportunities that could come from increasing the number of total installers and improving the productivity of their administrative functions. This led to a second stage that includes both validation of concepts developed from these opportunity areas and also additional primary research to deepen knowledge gained from the first round of interviews.

Concept validation and further research

This project has been experimental and dynamic with multiple conversations with stakeholders to understand their perspectives, goals and challenges. In the final stage of the project we will do some concept validation in an area where we have more confidence in potential solutions, as well as further research in areas where we need to deepen our knowledge before developing solutions.

Concept validation: helping mid-career gas engineers transition into installing heat pumps. Working with gas engineers whose skills make a transition to working on heat pumps relatively easy, we will identify the barriers they face and work with them on concepts that could help to overcome them.

Further research: helping existing heat pump firms to expand. By taking on new staff, existing heat pump firms could grow their profits and install more heat pumps. By speaking to those firms we'll explore the barriers they currently face in doing so. And through focus groups with heat pump firms and colleges, we'll deepen our knowledge of pathways into the sector for college leavers who might otherwise be drawn to gas.

Through this work, we'll identify the avenues with less potential that we'll put aside for now, and in more fruitful areas we'll develop new solution ideas to develop into larger projects or to explore through future rounds of speed testing.


Dimitris Sarsentis

Dimitris Sarsentis

Dimitris Sarsentis

Analyst, sustainable future mission

Dimitris joined Nesta’s sustainable future mission as an analyst after graduating from his MSc.

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Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Senior Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Oliver Zanetti is mission manager for Nesta’s sustainable future mission, which focuses on home decarbonisation and economic recovery.

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