Judges announced for £40m Water Breakthrough Challenge


A judging panel has been announced for a £40 million competition designed to unleash a wave of innovation across the water sector to deliver ‘transformative benefits’ for customers, society and the environment.

The inaugural Water Breakthrough Challenge encourages collaboration with water companies and organisations, including universities, start-ups, local authorities and other utilities, to tackle challenges facing the sector.

Led by the water regulator Ofwat, the Water Breakthrough Challenge is being run in partnership with Nesta Challenges and Arup.

John Russell, Senior Director of Strategy, Finance and Infrastructure at Ofwat, commented: “The high-calibre judging panel we’re announcing today has the expertise and experience to ensure that the boldest and most exciting projects rise to the surface and get the support they need to make a tangible difference to customers, society and the environment.

“Our judges, who have a wealth of valuable experience across multiple sectors and industries, are all committed to identifying the ambitious innovations that the Water Breakthrough Challenge is designed to accelerate. We’re delighted to have them on board.”

This is the second challenge to be delivered through the Ofwat Innovation Fund, following the £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge that ran earlier this year.

The eight-member judging panel announced today holds experience across industry, academia, policy development and research, consumer representation and engineering.

The judges are:

  • Paul Connell – Founder, Open Data Institute Leeds
  • Tony Conway – Visiting Professor, University of Sheffield and Director, British Water
  • Sharon Darcy – Director, Sustainability First
  • Paul O’Callaghan – Founder & CEO, BlueTech Research
  • Niki Roach – President, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and Director of AxiaOrigin
  • Frank Rogalla – Director of innovation and technology, Aqualia (Spain)
  • Anusha Shah – Director (Resilient Cities), Arcadis
  • Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, Executive Director, International Water Association

Chair of the judging panel, Anusha Shah, Director (Resilient Cities) at Arcadis, added: “It’s an honour to be chairing the judging panel. Speaking on behalf of my fellow judges, we are all looking forward to reviewing and assessing the entries.

“Complex dilemmas such as how to respond to the climate and nature emergency and ensuring customer voices are heard mean that the water sector has decisions to make: the sector can make a positive decision to drive bold solutions by thinking outside the box, driving behavioural change and embracing cross-sector collaboration. 

“The Water Breakthrough Challenge typifies this positive approach and I am thrilled to be involved.”

The winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge will be announced in September 2021, with successful entries to receive up to £10 million.

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