£40m Water Breakthrough Challenge will open in May, Ofwat announces


A new competition seeking to encourage innovation for water and wastewater services and drive transformational change for the sector and where entrants can win a share of £40 million will open in May, Ofwat has announced.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge aims to encourage collaborative innovative initiatives that help tackle the biggest challenges facing the water and wastewater services, such as achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing leakage, as well as taking opportunities to use open data and deliver value to society.

This fund is for initiatives that water companies would otherwise be unable to invest in or explore – and may exist in other sectors of our economy or worldwide. This might include, for example: trialling new technology, commercial models, ways of working or business practices.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, commented on the announcement: “This competition follows on from the successful Innovation in Water Challenge that we ran earlier this year, when we received dozens of brilliant entries.

“We now want to build on this momentum by encouraging and developing new partnerships and even bigger innovative projects that could make a real and lasting difference to the environment, society and people’s lives – now and well into the future.”

Entries must be submitted by water companies in England and Wales, but they can enter in partnership with organisations within and outside the water sector.

This could include universities and institutes, retailers, start-ups, or small businesses in sectors such as energy, manufacturing, health, or financial services.

Successful entries from water companies will receive between £1 million and £10 million to support their initiatives. Smaller value bids from small water companies may be considered.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge is funded through the water regulator’s £200 million Innovation Fund, as part of the regulator’s goal to create an innovative and collaborative water sector that meets the needs of customers, society and the environment in the years to come.

The Challenge is delivered by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, supported by Arup.

Chris Gorst, Director of Challenges at Nesta Challenges, added: “Climate change, extreme weather and ageing infrastructure are among the major challenges facing the water sector.

“Rising to these challenges demands that the sector goes beyond its business as usual, by seeking out, testing and scaling up new solutions, new ways of working and novel partnerships.

“With this Challenge we hope to pump-prime this process and to uncover and support truly breakthrough innovations that will deliver tangible benefits to water customers, wider society and the environment.”

More information about the competition is available on the Water Breakthrough Challenge website.