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OFWAT's Water Breakthrough Challenge launches in England & Wales with ChallengeWorks, Arup & Isle

  • OFWAT's Water Breakthrough Challenge launches in England & Wales with ChallengeWorks, Arup & Isle
  • OFWAT's Water Breakthrough Challenge launches in England & Wales with ChallengeWorks, Arup & Isle

About the entity

Isle Utilities
Innovation consultancy specialising in the development and commercialisation of emerging technologies in the water & environmental sectors.


OFWAT (The water regulator for England and Wales) have launched the next round of their Water Breakthrough Challenge (‘Breakthrough 3’) today on 3 October 2022 in England and Wales. Approximately £38 million in funding is available in this round, across two funding streams. Breakthrough 3 is delivered in partnership by ChallengeWorks and Arup and Isle Utilities as part of the Innovation Fund. The fund is designed to help water companies to develop their innovation capabilities, and help them to deliver improved services for water customers, the environment and society.

The fund will retain the two funding streams from Breakthrough 2. There are 2 funding streams:

  1. The £8 million Catalyst Stream will allow entries seeking between £150,000 and £2 million. Entries will open at 12 noon BST on Monday 3 October 2022, and close at 12 noon GMT on Thursday 8 December 2022.  
  2. The £30 million Transform Stream will allow entries seeking between £2-10 million. Stage 1 entries will open at 12 noon BST on Monday 3 October 2022, and close at 12 noon GMT on Wednesday 9 November 2022.  

The judges will be looking for ground-breaking, collaborative innovations to help tackle the biggest challenges facing the water sector. The scope is broad and could include anything from ideas that help to achieve net zero, to projects that protect natural ecosystems, prevent leaks and pollution and slash rising costs for water customers. Initiatives may feature advanced new technology, revolutionary commercial models, or game-changing business practices.

The competition will support initiatives that can deliver significant value aligned with one or more of the following strategic innovation themes:

  1. Responding and adapting to climate change including achieving the sector ambitions of net zero carbon, zero waste and zero leakage
  2. Protecting and enhancing the environment and natural systems, to protect current and future customers from the impacts of extreme weather and pollution
  3. Delivering long-term operational resilience and understanding 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 the services customers and society need, expect and value both now and in the future

As in previous rounds, entries to the Water Breakthrough Challenge must be led by a licensed water company in England or Wales as a lead. However, for entries to the Catalyst stream, lead water companies may devolve some project management responsibilities (including drafting entries) to their partners.

In this round, Ofwat are allowing owners of background intellectual property rights to charge a licence fee at a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory rate - however, any foreground intellectual property developed through the competition must still be shared with water companies in England and Wales.

Further funding will be available in early 2023 through a new competition which will aim to bring in more diverse, game-changing ideas from outside the sector. Unlike the Water Breakthrough Challenge, there will be no requirement for organisations to partner or receive sponsorship from a water company to enter the competition.

More information about the competition, including the entry form, assessment criteria and terms and conditions can be found on the Fund’s website at

Anyone who wants to learn more about the Water Breakthrough 3 Challenge can sign up for the Launch Webinar and Live Q&A at 11am this Wednesday 5 October 2022 (LINK).

Entrants and their partners can also schedule a 1-to-1 surgery session with a member of the delivery team, starting Thursday 6 October 2022. Book a 15-minute appointment via Calendly:

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