£2m challenge kick-starts for water-related innovations

Regulator Owfat has this week launched a new £2m challenge, which will award those developing innovative solutions to the UK water sector's biggest environmental challenges such as climate change and pollution.

£2m challenge kick-starts for water-related innovations

Each winning project will get a grant of between £50

Called the Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC), Ofwat is running the scheme in partnership with consultancy Arup, innovation foundation Nesta and Isle Utilities. It is looking to award innovative solutions to what it calls the “biggest challenges of today and the future” for the water sector: the net-zero transition, the need to protect ecosystems from pollution and leaks and the need to deliver value for money for customers.

Ofwat is not looking for water companies to develop technologies, systems or schemes on their own. Rather, entrants must prove that collaboration is at the heart of their entry. Collaborations can be between water companies or with organisations in the energy, manufacturing, health or financial services sector.

Each winning partnership will receive between £50,000 and £250,000 to support their initiatives, meaning there can be a minimum of eight winners. Entries are open until 26 February.

 “We strongly believe in the power of partnerships and collaboration in bringing about more innovation that will help deliver better outcomes for customers, society and the environment,” Ofwat’s senior director John Russell said.

“We are now at a pivotal point in the sector’s future and we’re excited to open up the door to innovation and new ideas from both within and outside the sector.”

Race to Zero

The news from Ofwat comes just days after Water UK – the trade body representing all major water companies across the UK – was named by the UNFCCC as an official partner of the Race to Zero Campaign

Launched last year, the campaign is designed to rally support for higher climate ambitions and accelerated action across businesses, cities, regions and investors globally ahead of COP26. The summit is taking place in Glasgow in November.

Water UK is the first body exclusively representing utilities to be named as an official partner. It is the driving force behind the sector’s roadmap for reaching net-zero by 2030, published in November 2020. The roadmap estimates that the sector will need to invest some £2-4bn in new infrastructure, technology and jobs to meet the commitment.

Sarah George

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