Water regulator Ofwat has launched a £4m competition for farmers and landowners with ideas that can solve the biggest challenges facing the water sector.
The Water Discovery Challenge is the latest from Ofwat’s £200 million innovation fund, which seeks to generate new ideas to tackle pressing issues.
These include managing leaks, preventing pollution, improving water efficiency, reducing emissions, and boosting flood and drought resilience.
Where previous Ofwat competitions have focused on innovations from within the sector, the new challenge is incentivising ideas outside of the water sector – including those in farming.
It is seeking solutions from industries dealing with similar challenges to those faced by the water sector, or implementing solutions that could benefit water and wastewater services– with no requirement for entrants to partner with a water company.
Ofwat said the goal was to open the sector to new ground-breaking insights that could benefit consumers and the environment.
Up to 20 teams of the most promising innovators will be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas, with expert support from water companies.
Up to 10 teams will then go on to win up to £450,000 to turn their ideas into pilots.
John Russell, senior director at Ofwat, said: “Our £200m innovation fund has already supported projects that detect and fix leaks, capture carbon emissions from water processing plants to convert them into fuel, and remove fertilisers from waterways to be re-used in our food system.
"Now we’re broadening the opportunity to innovators in any industry that can make a difference to improving the water system for all of us.”
Who are the fund's past winners?
Previous examples of Ofwat innovation fund winners that showcase the value of collaboration with farming and agriculture include:
• The Organics Ammonia Recovery project - to recover ammonia in wastewater and turn it into green hydrogen fuel a first for the industry.
• SuPR Loofah – Removing phosphorous from wastewater using an innovative loofah to capture the chemical that can produce damaging algal-blooms in water ways
• Diffusing the Nitrate Timebomb project - is exploring methods that could prevent high levels of nitrates (a harmful chemical used in fertilisers for farming) from seeping into drinking water.
The Water Discovery Challenge closes for entries on 5 April 2023.