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Researching the impact of the Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund

The Vattenfall Unlock our Future Fund supports community projects in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire contributing towards a climate-smart future. In 2021, Foundation Scotland and the panel who oversee the fund, worked with Anrijs Visvaldis Forsts, a Master's student at the University of Aberdeen, on a research project to understand better the impacts of the fund.

Anrijs adopted an approach that recognised the dependence of the region on the oil industry since the 1970s. Using ideas from academic literature around ‘industrial lock-in’ and ‘path dependence’, the research highlighted the role communities can have in steering away from an economy ‘locked-in’ to fossil fuel industries towards an economically and environmentally sustainable low carbon economy.

Anrijs developed a framework that incorporates the multiple dimensions of the impacts seen so far in Unlock our Future funded projects. This framework assesses the impacts of projects on enhancing the following:

  • social capital
  • human capital
  • natural capital
  • manufactured capital
  • economic, social and institutional actors
  • the institutional environment
  • regional and extra-regional assets
  • market creation.

Eight projects that had previously received Unlock our Future Fund support were interviewed and assessed against each of these dimensions. The results were written up in the form of case studies and ‘spider’ diagrams to visualise the key contributions being made by each project.

The research findings support the view that community-led action is particularly important in a region where historic path dependence on the oil industry creates a barrier to sustainable transition. The case studies showed that the impacts of the projects funded by the Unlock our Future Fund go well beyond direct carbon savings: they can inspire, educate, reach the most disadvantaged, engage with partners, and drive change.

The research made recommendations to Foundation Scotland, and the fund panel about using the framework developed to select and monitor the projects which would have the greatest impact on the region. Anrijs also recommended that more was done to provide networking opportunities for grant recipients to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing – a recommendation that the panel are keen to implement as soon as possible.

Foundation Scotland and the Unlock our Future Fund Panel would like to thank Anrijs and the University of Aberdeen for delivering a study that provided valuable insights into how we can develop the fund in future years.

For further detail on the research, download the dissertation summary below. For a copy of the full dissertation, contact Bea Jefferson at