Visit the innovation competitions website
The water innovation competitions now have their own website. Visit waterinnovation.challenges.org to get details on the competitions and how to enter.
Get the latest information and updates
You can subscribe or unsubscribe to receive updates about the water innovation competitions using Nesta’s (our innovation fund partner) mailing list. This is also available from the innovation competitions website
If you know anyone that may be interested in either competition (particularly those outside the water sector) please share this link.
Below you can find some background about the competitions.
About the innovation competitions
Ofwat has established a £200 million Innovation Fund to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate, enabling it to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment.
From 2021 we will be running at least two types of competitions that water companies, in partnership with others, can enter with their innovations. You can find out more about the competitions on the dedicated Innovation Fund website.
- A £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC) with opportunity to win funding up to £250,000. We’ve announced the winners of our first round of the IWC. Please go to the Water Innovation Challenges website to find out more and look out for future rounds to enter.
- A £40 million Water Breakthrough Challenge. The first round opened for entries on 6 May 2021 – and the first stage closes on 3 June 2021. More details are on the dedicated website. Please go to the Water Innovation Challenges website to find out more.
We expect different rounds of the competitions to run until 2025, but our goal is that the Innovation Fund’s impact will continue well beyond this.
Five strategic innovation themes
There are five key areas that Ofwat have identified that are big challenges for the sector, which would benefit from additional innovation, expressed in the five strategic innovation themes. Through the competitions, the Innovation Fund will support initiatives that can deliver significant value for customers, society and the environment aligned with one or more of these themes:
- Responding and adapting to climate change, including how to meet the sector’s ambition of net-zero emissions.
- Restoring and improving the ecological status of our water environments, protecting current and future customers from the impacts of extreme weather and pollution.
- Understanding long-term operational resilience and infrastructure risks to customers and the environment, finding solutions to mitigate these in sustainable and efficient ways.
- Testing new ways of conducting core activities to deliver wider public value.
- Exploring the opportunities associated with open data, stimulating innovation and collaboration, for example, encouraging new business models and service offerings that benefit customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances.
Building the sector’s capacity to innovate
The five strategic innovation themes highlight some of the needs of customers, society and the environment. The Innovation Fund has been established to help the England and Wales water sector grow its capacity to innovate and meet these needs, and the needs of future generations.
The Innovation Fund aims to achieve this by supporting ambitious water company initiatives that demonstrate bold new approaches to innovation. Through the innovation competitions, it will support initiatives going beyond the sector’s business-as-usual innovation practices that can create significant value for customers, society and the environment.
We have identified some innovation enablers that we believe are, and will continue to be, critical to growing our sector’s capacity to innovate. Across the competitions, the Fund will support initiatives that demonstrate and strengthen these enablers, including:
- Collaboration: Building and strengthening collaboration and partnerships across companies, the supply chain and beyond.
- Openness: To sharing data, insights and ideas within the water sector and with other sectors.
- Adaptability: Flexibility and openness to exploring new ways of working.
- Innovation Risk Management: including through greater use of experimentation.
- Scalability and Deployability: Improving the ease of scaling proven innovations within the sector.
- Long-term View: Taking both a longer-term and broader perspective on value creation.
Form your partnership today
If you work at a water company, now is the time to explore opportunities for new partnerships and consortia. You can partner with anyone you wish – including supply chain partners, new start-ups, SMEs, academia and water companies outside of England and Wales, water retailers and many more. Please note that it’s your responsibility to carry out any checks and due diligence on partners.
If you are not a water company, you may wish to reach out to one or more water companies to explore the possibility of working together on an entry. We have compiled a list of companies that you can contact today to explore new partnership opportunities:
If you’re new to the water sector, you may wish to email [email protected] to get in contact with a water company about your innovative idea or solution. This central inbox is managed by an alliance of 19 UK water companies.
The sector is currently developing supportive materials to highlight areas of interest and which companies to contact, this should be made available soon.
Part of the exciting thing about these competitions is forming new partnerships. We know that it’s not always easy for innovators to find collaboration partners in the sector but both Ofwat and companies will work to improve this through what we learn from successive rounds of the competitions and as new collaborations are developed. We also hope other developments, such as the creation of the sector’s proposed centre for excellence, will play an important role here.
Head over to the dedicated website to find out more about partnership brokerage events.
You can find out about the Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC) and Water Breakthrough Challenge on the dedicated website run by Nesta Challenges, with the latest details on each of the competitions
You can subscribe or unsubscribe to receive updates about the water innovation competitions using Nesta’s (our innovation fund partner) mailing list.
If you have any questions, please email Nesta Challenges at [email protected]
Further reading and resources
|Water sector overview, webpage||An overview of the water sector in England and Wales, the organisations involved and some history|
|UK water company priority areas for innovation||An alliance of 19 UK water companies and their stakeholders (‘UK Water 2050’) have produced their list of priority areas where innovation is needed in the sector.|
|UK 2050 Water innovation strategy||The strategy from an alliance of 19 UK water companies and their stakeholders (‘UK Water 2050’). The strategy seeks to guide innovation investment across the sector and will provide insight for Ofwat in rolling out the £200m innovation fund. It also signals new opportunities for partners and suppliers of all sizes to innovate and collaborate more easily and efficiently across the whole sector.|
|Net Zero 2030 routemap||UK Water companies’ plan to deliver a net zero water supply for customers by 2030.|
|Resilience webpages||Ofwat’s approach and view on resilience|
|Ofwat discussion paper on public value in the water sector, December 2020||Our discussion paper on public value – this consultation has now closed|
|Innovation in the water sector||Our main webpage about encouraging innovation in the sector|
|Time to act, together||Ofwat’s strategy for regulating the water and wastewater sector in England and Wales|
|‘Innovation funding and competition: decision on design and implementation’||Our decisions on the design and implementation of the fund, which we published in August 2020|
|Innovation in Water Challenge round 1 decisions||This document sets out the process we followed to select the winners of round 1 of our ‘Innovation in Water Challenge’ innovation competition – and the reasons for our decisions.|
Water company maps
Ofwat produces a digital representation of the water and sewerage undertaker boundary as GIS shapefiles. The shapefiles are designed for geospatial analysis only. The definitive legal record of water supply and sewerage services areas remains the maps and other information set out in the appointments of companies as water and/or sewerage undertakers and subsequent area variations. The GIS shapefiles have been digitised from the legal records by Ofwat with support from Ordnance Survey. They are published under the Open Government Licence.
You can download the shapefiles from the House of Commons Library website. You can also access a map that shows which water companies serve different UK Parliament constituencies across England and Wales.