New judges announced for £39m Water Breakthrough Challenge


Water regulator Ofwat and innovation foundation Nesta Challenges have announced the expert judging panels for the two streams of the £39 million Water Breakthrough Challenge, which aims to bring forward industry-leading innovation that deliver benefits for water customers, society, and the environment.

Split into two streams, the Catalyst Stream will award approximately £5 million to entries seeking funding of between £100,000 and £1 million and the Transform Stream will award approximately £34 million to entries seeking funding of between £1 million and £10 million.

The Catalyst Stream panel includes judges who previously assessed entrants to last year’s Innovation in Water Challenge, with Alison Austin OBE (Independent Board Member of the Consumer Council of Water) joining the panel, alongside Tony Conway (Visiting Professor, University of Sheffield and Director of British Water), who also judged the first Water Breakthrough Challenge.

They are joined on the Catalyst Stream judging panel by:

  • Myrtle Dawes – Solution Centre Director, Oil & Gas Technology Centre
  • Lila Thompson – Chief Executive, British Water
  • Nicole Ballantyne – Knowledge Transfer Manager, Knowledge Transfer Network
  • Adam Scorer – CEO, National Energy Action Wales
  • Dragan Savic – CEO, KWR Water

Alison Austin OBE, Independent Board Member of the Consumer Council of Water and Water Breakthrough Challenge Catalyst Stream judge, commented: “I am delighted to join the rest of the expert panel of judges to award funding to innovative ideas that will benefit consumers, society and the environment in the future.

“I will be looking to make sure that the customer benefit can be evidenced, realised and scaled in the entries that are taken forward. There are some big challenges facing us in the next ten years, many of which depend on a different way of thinking and genuine collaboration. I am sure it will be a tough challenge to select the best innovations for customers.”

The Transform Stream panel includes judges from the first Water Breakthrough Challenge, as well as Dr Jane Davidson (Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Wales Trinity Saint David) and Dr Steven Steer (Lead Data Consultant, Zuhlke Group and former Head of Data at Ofgem). They join the remaining six judges on the panel:

  • Anusha Shah – Director Resilient Cities, Arcadis, BEng, CEng, FICE
  • Sharon Darcy – Director, Sustainability First
  • Paul O’Callaghan – Founder & CEO, BlueTech Research
  • Niki Roach – President, The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Director and Co-Founder of AxiaOrigin, FCIWEM, CEnv
  • Frank Rogalla – Director of Innovation and Technology, Aqualia (Spain)
  • Tony Conway – Visiting Professor, Sheffield University and Prior executive director, United Utilities

18 entries have been received for the Catalyst Stream, with English and Welsh water companies forming partnerships between 58 organisations across industry, academia and specialist solution providers. 25% of the partnerships are new relationships formed specially for the Water Breakthrough Challenge. The Transform Stream closes for final entries on 8 February 2022.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge funds initiatives that water companies would otherwise be unable to invest in or explore. New innovation competitions will be announced through to 2025.

The judging for the second Water Breakthrough Challenge will commence in February 2022 and the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge Catalyst Stream will be announced in March 2022 and the Transform Stream winners in April 2022.

More information is available on the Water Innovation Challenge website.