PN 01/21: £2m competition launches to spark innovation & collaboration in water sector

  • £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC) launched to stimulate innovative responses to challenges in the water industry, such as climate change and the risk of pollution in UK waterways.
  • Run by Ofwat in partnership with Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities, the IWC is the first in a series of competitions funded through Ofwat’s Innovation Fund that aims to create new collaborations in the water sector so it can meet the needs of society and the environment.
  • Entries for the IWC are now open for water companies and their partners – both within and outside the sector – to submit their ideas and be in with a chance of winning up to £250,000.

18 January 2021 – Today, the inaugural £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC) opens for entries to help tackle the biggest challenges facing the water industry, benefiting society and the environment.

Run by the water regulator, Ofwat, in partnership with Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities, the IWC is looking for collaborative initiatives that address the big challenges of today and the future; from achieving net zero, to protecting natural ecosystems from leakages or pollution, and delivering better value for money for water customers in England and Wales.

The IWC is the first of two competitions being run this year within Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund, as part of the regulator’s goal to create an innovative and collaborative water sector that is well-placed to meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment in the years to come. It aims to encourage innovative ideas that water companies would otherwise be unable to invest in or explore.

Entries must be submitted by water companies from England and Wales together with their partner organisations. The partner organisations can be either within or outside the water sector, for example energy, manufacturing, health or financial services. Each winning partnership will receive between £50,000 and £250,000 to support their initiatives.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat commented: “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.

“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. This is just the first of a series of competitions we’ll be running as part of our Innovation Fund to deliver long term transformational change for the water sector.”

Chris Gorst, Director of Challenges at Nesta Challenges commented: “The water sector is currently facing the most defining challenges of our era – from climate change to building long-term resilience against the effects of extreme weather and meeting the evolving needs of society. Innovation and collaboration are going to be key in meeting these challenges and we look forward to seeing bold ideas from entrants over the coming weeks.

“We’re open to all kinds of entries – from technology, methodologies and approaches, business practices, commercial models and other budding ideas – and we know the best ideas can often come from the most unlikely places, so we hope to see a range of partnerships from both within and outside the sector.”

To find out more and apply for the IWC visit The deadline for entries is 12 noon (GMT) on 26 February 2021.

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Notes to Editor:

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About Nesta and Nesta Challenges

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society. We’ve spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we’ve applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation and the creative economy and arts.

Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges exists to design and run challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions. We shine a spotlight where it matters and incentivise people to solve these issues. We are independent supporters of change to help communities thrive and inspire the best placed, most diverse groups of people around the world to take action.

We support the boldest and bravest ideas to become real, and seed long term change to advance society and build a better future for everyone. We are part of the innovation foundation, Nesta. We are challengers. We are innovators. We are game changers.

About Ofwat To contact Ofwat’s press office, please call 07458 126271