Leaders in Bath’s Water Innovation Research Centre have since January 2020 been working with colleagues across the water industry, including other academics, and from UKWIR, Water UK, the UK’s 17 water utilities and Arup, to develop a long-term strategy for innovation in the water utility space.

This work has resulted in the Water Innovation 2050 Strategy, which was published last month.

Now, that strategy is poised to help shape the delivery of a new £200 million innovation fund overseen by the industry regulator Ofwat - and Bath researchers are encouraged to come forward to discuss ideas that could translate into valuable research projects.

Tom Arnot, Co-Director of WIRC, says: “This is a good example of the work we’re doing within WIRC and as part of the GW4 Water Security Alliance to open up opportunities for collaboration, engagement and to unlock research funding. We’d encourage any researchers with interests in the water research space, to come forward and see how WIRC might be able to help support research ideas that would be eligible for this important strategic project and to connect with potential water utility partners.

“We do know that bids to the Ofwat fund must be led by one of the water utility companies, however the opportunity for collaborative bids involving the academic research community, and hence the potential for leverage against UKRI and EU research funding, is likely to be significant. We will be sharing more on this as information is released.”

You can download and read the strategy document here. The strategy has seven main themes around which innovation projects will focus, with a view for delivering substantial outcomes by 2050:

  • Providing the services that society needs, expects, and values.
  • Providing clean water for all.
  • Protecting and enhancing natural systems.
  • Delivering resilient infrastructure systems.
  • Achieving net zero carbon.
  • Taking a whole life approach to responsible consumption and production.
  • Enabling diverse future ready people and partnership working.

This week, Ofwat has announced Nesta, supported by Arup and Isle Utilities, as the delivery partner for the £200 million water innovation competitions. From 2021 Ofwat, via Nesta, will be running a series of competitions that water companies and their collaborative partners others can enter with their innovations. The main details are as follows:

  • The fund can be accessed directly by water and wastewater companies and new entrants. Other parties can access the funding indirectly through collaborative bids.
  • There will be two strands of the competition – the innovation in water challenge, opening in January 2021, and the main competition, expected to open in spring 2021.
  • The innovation in water challenge will be a competition for smaller projects worth up to £250,000. It will particularly interest supply chain businesses who might not always get the opportunity to pitch to big businesses.
  • The main competition will be for larger, strategic projects involving cross-water company collaboration, as well as with other stakeholders in the water sector and beyond. Winning projects will share £40 million in each round.

Each of the main competitions will run several times during 2020-25, and the more detailed scope of these competitions will be published at a later date. Further information can be found on the Ofwat website.

In addition to the new research and innovation funding, the regulator also has plans to develop a virtual national Centre of Excellence in Water Innovation, in which the GW4 WSA and WIRC@Bath are aiming to be key players.

For any queries or to seek advice, please email us at water-research@bath.ac.uk.