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New judges announced for £39m Water Breakthrough Challenge competition to catalyse innovation

  • New judges announced for £39m Water Breakthrough Challenge competition to catalyse innovation
  • Judging panels announced for the two streams of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge with wealth of expertise across areas such as innovation, customer insights and sustainability.
  • Approximately £5 million will be awarded in the Catalyst Stream to entries seeking funding of between £100,000 and £1 million.
  • Approximately £34 million will be awarded in the Transform Stream to entries seeking funding of between £1 million and £10 million
  • The Water Breakthrough Challenge aims to encourage new ways of working that go beyond business-as-usual innovation practices in the water sector

About the entity

Ofwat
The economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales.

Water regulator Ofwat and innovation foundation Nesta Challenges have announced the expert judging panels for the two streams of the £39 million Water Breakthrough Challenge, which aims to bring forward industry-leading innovation that deliver benefits for water customers, society, and the environment.

Split into two streams, the Catalyst Stream will award approximately £5 million to entries seeking funding of between £100,000 and £1 million and the Transform Stream will award approximately £34 million to entries seeking funding of between £1 million and £10 million.

The Catalyst Stream panel includes judges who previously assessed entrants to last year’s Innovation in Water Challenge, with expert newcomer Alison Austin OBE (Independent Board Member of the Consumer Council of Water) joining the panel, alongside Tony Conway (Visiting Professor, University of Sheffield and Director of British Water), who also judged the first Water Breakthrough Challenge. They are joined on the Catalyst Stream judging panel by:

  • Myrtle Dawes – Solution Centre Director, Oil & Gas Technology Centre
  • Lila Thompson – Chief Executive, British Water
  • Nicole Ballantyne – Knowledge Transfer Manager, Knowledge Transfer Network
  • Adam Scorer – CEO, National Energy Action Wales
  • Dragan Savic – CEO, KWR Water

The Transform Stream panel includes judges from the first Water Breakthrough Challenge, as well as two new respected industry experts, Dr Jane Davidson (Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Wales Trinity Saint David) and Dr Steven Steer (Lead Data Consultant, Zuhlke Group and former Head of Data at Ofgem). They join the remaining six judges on the panel:

  • Anusha Shah – Director Resilient Cities, Arcadis, BEng, CEng, FICE
  • Sharon Darcy – Director, Sustainability First
  • Paul O’Callaghan – Founder & CEO, BlueTech Research
  • Niki Roach – President, The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Director and Co-Founder of AxiaOrigin, FCIWEM, CEnv
  • Frank Rogalla – Director of Innovation and Technology, Aqualia (Spain)
  • Tony Conway – Visiting Professor, Sheffield University and Prior executive director, United Utilities

The judges’ breadth of expertise will bring insights from within the water sector and beyond, as well as a deep understanding of innovation and customer concerns.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat said:

“Since we launched the Water Innovation Fund a year ago, the partnerships formed across industry have resulted in truly exciting projects that can make a massive difference to customers, the environment and the operational resilience of the water sector. I’m pleased to announce our judges for the second Water Breakthrough Challenge today who will bring their knowledge and expertise to bear on what is set to be a very competitive judging process.”

Alison Austin OBE, Independent Board Member of the Consumer Council of Water and Water Breakthrough Challenge Catalyst Stream judge said:

“I am delighted to join the rest of the expert panel of judges to award funding to innovative ideas that will benefit consumers, society and the environment in the future. I will be looking to make sure that the customer benefit can be evidenced, realised and scaled in the entries that are taken forward.  There are some big challenges facing us in the next ten years, many of which depend on a different way of thinking and genuine collaboration.  I am sure it will be a tough challenge to select the best innovations for customers.”

18 entries have been received for the Catalyst Stream, with English and Welsh water companies forming partnerships between 58 organisations across industry, academia and specialist solution providers. 25% of the partnerships are new relationships formed specially for the Water Breakthrough Challenge. The Transform Stream closes for final entries on 8 February 2022.

The Water Breakthrough Challenge contributes to water regulator Ofwat’s goal of creating an innovative and collaborative water sector that can meet the needs of customers, society, and the environment into the future. The Challenge funds initiatives that water companies would otherwise be unable to invest in or explore. New innovation competitions will be announced through to 2025, however Ofwat’s goal is that the Innovation Fund’s impact will be felt well beyond this.

The judging for the second Water Breakthrough Challenge will commence in February 2022 and the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge Catalyst Stream will be announced in March 2022 with the Transform Stream winners revealed in April 2022.

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