New Judges Announced for £39m Water Breakthrough Challenge Competition to Transform & Catalyse Innovation in Water

Water regulator Ofwat and innovation foundation Nesta Challenges are today announcing 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 honoured 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. After discovering the high calibre of projects from the first strand of the Water Breakthrough Challenge I do not doubt that it will be another tough decision.”

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. To find out more, visit