Water innovation competitions

About the innovation competitions

Man and child playing with building blocks

Ofwat has established a £200 million innovation fund to encourage innovations that will transform water and wastewater services in England and Wales.

From 2021 we will be running at least two competitions that water companies and others can enter with their innovations.

  • A £2 million ‘Innovation in Water Challenge’ for funding projects up to £250k. We will open this for entries from January 2021.
  • A £40 million main competition. This will open for this for entries from April 2021.

We expect to run further competitions each year from 2022 to 2025.

We are working with Nesta Challenges, supported by Arup and isle utilities, as our partner to help us run the competition.

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If you know anyone that may be interested in either competitions (particularly those outside the water sector) please share this link.

Who can enter

Those in England and Wales able to enter the competition directly are:

They can do this:

  • on their own;
  • as part of a group; or
  • in partnership with others.

Anyone else interested in entering the competitions must be in partnership with one or more of the water companies.

You do not need to be someone that currently works in, or with, the water sector. In fact, we’re keen to get entries collaborating with those from outside the sector.

Form your partnership today

Get in contact with any of the companies below today to form your partnership.

Anglian Water Dŵr Cymru Hafren Dyfrdwy
Northumbrian Water (including Essex and Suffolk Water) Severn Trent Water South West Water (including Bournemouth Water)
Southern Water Thames Water  United Utilities
Wessex Water Yorkshire Water Affinity Water
Bristol Water Portsmouth Water South East Water
South Staffs Water (including Cambridge Water) SES Water Albion Eco
Albion Water County Water Icosa Water
Independent Water Networks Leep Water Networks Severn Trent Services
Veolia Water Projects

Types of entries

We want to see any innovations that deliver a step-change in technology, the use of systems, processes and people, including commercial arrangements. Proposals should be in line with our competition principles and just as much about the roll-out of innovations at scale as the early incubation of new ideas and solutions.

We will take a flexible approach towards the type and size of projects funded through the innovation fund.

But we are particularly looking for entries with innovation in the following five areas.

1. Responding and adapting to climate change including how to meet the sector’s ambition of net-zero emissions.

2. Restoring and improving the ecological status of our water environments, protecting current and future customers from the impacts of extreme weather and pollution.

3. Understanding long-term operational resilience and infrastructure risks to customers and the environment, finding solutions to mitigate these in sustainable and efficient ways.

4. Testing new ways of conducting core activities to deliver wider public value.

5. 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.

How to enter

We’ll be releasing more details about the Innovation in Water Challenge later this year – and more information about the main competition next year

We’ll be working closely with Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle to develop the details. This includes:

  • the application process for bids;
  • the detailed assessment criteria;
  • the bid assessment process and selection of an advisory panel;
  • the monitoring of projects funded; and
  • the process and oversight around settlements for winning bids.

We’ll also be speaking with the water companies and others.

Judging the competition

We will be establishing a panel of experts to carry out a technical scrutiny of the entries we receive to both competitions.

The expert panel will make recommendations to us on which projects should be considered for funding.

We’ll be releasing more details later this year.

When the innovation competitions will open

The ‘Innovation in Water Challenge’ for small projects will open from January 2021. We expect to announce the winning bids and award funding by March 2021.

The main competition will open in spring 2021. We expect to announce the winning bids and award funding by June 2021.

We’ll confirm precise dates and timings later this year.

More information

You can find more information in our ‘Innovation funding and competition briefing sheet’ or in our decision document ‘Innovation funding and competition: decision on design and implementation’ (August 2020).

You can subscribe or unsubscribe to receive updates about the water innovation competitions using our mailing list.

If you have any questions please email us at [email protected].

For media, please contact [email protected].

Further reading

Innovation in the water sector Our main webpage about encouraging innovation in the sector
UK 2050 Water innovation strategy, October 2020 Final strategy from an alliance of 19 UK water companies and their stakeholders. 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.
Time to act, together, October 2019 Ofwat’s strategy for regulating the water and wastewater sector in England and Wales
Water sector overview, webpage An overview of the water sector in England and Wales, the organisations involved and some history