Ofwat has announced their plans for the next phase of their Innovation Fund, including a new ‘open access’ competition to launch in early 2023 which will make £4 million available to innovators from any sector – from fintechs, to manufacturers, community groups or local government – allowing them to bid for up to £500,000 for their game-changing ideas for the water sector.
As well as the new open access competition, the next Water Breakthrough Challenge will launch in October 2022 with a total of £38 million available for innovative initiatives led by water companies and their partners.
Ofwat launched the £200 million Innovation Fund in 2020, to support innovative initiatives which deliver significant benefits for water customers, society and the environment. It aims to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovative, to enable it to better address challenges and meet the evolving needs of its stakeholders.
Over a 20 month pilot period, consisting of three competitions, the fund awarded £63m to projects ranging from bio-engineering solutions for ammonia and phosphorus pollution to remove pollutants from water whilst creating a circular economy for finite and useful chemicals, carbon capture initiatives to cut industry-related emissions to meet water industry targets of achieving net zero emissions by 2030, and cutting-edge research projects to develop green hydrogen from sewage, to create clean energy alternatives for the future.
Following a review of the pilot period (summarised in the End of Pilot Report prepared by the Fund’s delivery partners) and a consultation, Ofwat has unveiled how the innovation fund will evolve to meet customer, environmental and industry priorities in the years ahead:
John Russell, Senior Director, Strategy, Finance and Infrastructure at Ofwat said: “We need greater innovation in the water sector to tackle the significant challenges it faces. The Innovation Fund has inspired multiple collaborations between companies in and outside of the water sector. The ambition of the winning entries to date demonstrates the sector’s commitment to build a resilient water system that benefits the environment and customers.
“Over the next three years we will distribute approximately £120m to more innovative initiatives. I’m pleased to announce the return of the Water Breakthrough Challenge this autumn, plus an entirely new competition open to innovators from any sector with ideas capable of positive transformation for the water industry to follow early in 2023. We’re also currently consulting on continuing the fund to 2030.”