Water sector invites construction companies to pitch for £40m innovation fund

A £40m innovation competition, the Water Breakthrough Challenge, has been launched to spark innovation and new ways of working in the water sector – and construction companies are being urged to get involved.   

The Water Breakthrough Challenge aims to help the water sector to address the challenges facing it in England and Wales. It encourages collaborative entries from other sectors and worldwide partners, and aims to fund initiatives that water companies would otherwise have been unable to invest in or explore. 

Entries must demonstrate how solutions help the water sector deliver for customers, society and the environment, such as by achieving net zero, protecting natural ecosystems and reducing the impact of extreme weather, or using open data to improve customer service. 

The deadline for entries is 3 June 2021 with successful partnerships winning up to £10m to develop and implement their initiatives.   

The Challenge is run by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, supported by Arup, and is the second in a series of competitions funded through Ofwat’s Innovation Fund.

Among the winners of Ofwat’s first innovation competition – the £2m Innovation in Water Challenge revealed last month – were projects involving the likes of Balfour Beatty, Barhale, Costain and Skanska.

The winning projects included:

  • the use of AI and machine learning to improve sewer defect analysis;
  • bespoke software that volunteers and experts can use to show the impacts of habitat degradation on wildlife and ecological communities;
  • the tools and processes required to support the cultural and behavioural changes necessary to drive the water industry to zero carbon emissions;
  • the use of unexploited optical fibre strands in existing telecoms cables to detect and therefore prevent leaks in water and wastewater networks;
  • real-time monitoring of drinking water and rainwater storage tanks to see if more water can be stored when needed most, such as during extended dry periods or drought; and
  • the delivery of a virtual innovation accelerator hub to promote collaboration in and beyond the water sector and drive transformational innovation

To apply for the Water Breakthrough Challenge, visit  

Image: 103723459 © Mulderphoto |

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