Second chance to kick-start transformation within the water sector

Entry for Ofwat’s second water breakthrough challenge worth £39m is open and the construction industry is again being urged to take part.

The scheme aims to support new ways of working within the water sector and address issues such as climate change, decarbonisation, and other challenges. It is part of Ofwat’s £200m Innovation Fund, being delivered by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, supported by Arup and Isle Utilities.

Nine winners for the first challenge were announced at the end of September and include projects using AI to monitor risk of flooding and sewage pollution, producing green hydrogen energy, and using AI systems to improve water supply operational resilience.

The first challenge has helped water companies forge partnerships with tech giants, as well as conservation charities including the Rivers Trust and Zoological Society of London, and academia. Now organisers want to see “even more” creative partnerships and cutting-edge tech and innovation.

Ofwat senior director John Russell said: “Our goal is to create a more open, collaborative, progressive and outward-facing sector – supporting water companies to tap into new opportunities to learn from other industries and transform practices to make a lasting difference to the environment, society and people’s lives. 

“The innovation we’ve seen in the two previous competitions have exceeded our expectations in their ambition and imagination.”

Nesta Challenges new frontiers director Holly Jamieson added: “The water sector, like many others, continues to confront the challenge of climate change, while at the same time needing to support customers and deal with an ageing infrastructure. 

“By collaborating with others in the sector, as well as other industries, we can ensure the water sector is well armed with breakthrough solutions to help them overcome these pressing challenges and benefit water customers, wider society and the environment – long into the future.”

In the first challenge, £9m was given to projects tackling the health of rivers and waterways, and £12.8m awarded to projects on decarbonising and reducing pollutants from the water treatment process. A further £14.2m was awarded to projects helping communities and vulnerable water users, and prevent leakages to reduce bills.

In this second challenge there are two streams of funding – the ‘catalyst’ fund of £5m is for funding between £100,000 and £1m and the deadline for entries is 12pm, 8 December 2021. The ‘transform’ £34m pot is for funding between £1m and £10m. 

Stage 1 of the Transform Stream closes for entries at 12pm on 16 November 2021 and stage 2 entries will open on 15 December 2021 and close at 12pm on 8 February 2022.

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