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Water Breakthrough Challenge 4: Catalyst

Fund Name

Water Breakthrough Challenge 4: Catalyst Stream

Project Value

£150k - £2m



The Catalyst Stream aims to encourage new ways of working that go beyond business-as-usual innovation practices in the water sector, in particular, increasing and improving collaboration and building partnerships from within and outside the water sector.

Individual entries to the Catalyst Stream can bid for funding from £150,000 to £2 million.

Check Your Eligibility

Fund details

Ofwat is looking for ideas that address the big challenges facing the water sector – aligned with Ofwat’s four strategic innovation themes. It aims to fund a wide range of entries that will showcase a diverse mix of innovative ways of working and solutions.

The Fund will consider supporting initiatives that demonstrate and further strengthen these enablers, including but not limited to:

  • Collaboration: building and strengthening collaboration and partnerships across companies, the supply chain and outside the water sector.
  • Openness: to sharing data, insights, and ideas within the water sector and with other sectors. All projects supported by the Fund should use an “open by default” approach to data and learning.
  • Adaptability: flexibility and openness to trying out new ways of working.
  • All entry partners must agree to abide by the terms and conditions. delivering value from all innovation projects, particularly more experimental projects, even if they fail.
  • Scalability & deployability: improving the ease of scaling up and rolling out of proven innovations within the sector.
  • Long-term view: taking both a longer-term and broader perspective to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society, and the environment.

Ofwat is seeking truly innovative entries and encourages water companies to adopt an open risk appetite within their Fund entries, supported by strong risk management with a clear plan to share data and learning, regardless of the outcome.

Entrants will be asked to provide information on their approach to risk in their entry. Entrants will be responsible for:

  • Managing delivery and reviewing progress against milestones.
  • Adapting delivery to realise the intended impact most efficiently and effectively.
  • Sharing significant changes to delivery with Ofwat and its delivery partners.

Partnerships and collaboration 

Ofwat particularly encourages entries that involve partnerships and collaboration between water companies, including NAVs, as well as with organisations in the water sector supply chain and beyond.

If you are a water company, including NAVs: you are strongly encouraged to explore opportunities for new partnerships and consortia, including by signalling opportunities for partnerships on your website and social media channels. You can partner with any organisation you wish, domestic or international, including other water companies, supply chain partners, new start-ups, SMEs, academia, local authorities, water companies outside of England and Wales, and water supply and/or sewerage retailers. You may also wish to review the supplier pitch videos hosted on our Water Innovation Directory.

If you are not a water company: Breakthrough 4 is an opportunity to reach out to one or more water companies to explore the possibility of working together. If you are new to the water sector, you may wish to contact Spring, the water sector’s centre of excellence for innovation. In particular, Ofwat recommends you read the water sector’s innovation strategy before contacting water companies to understand their innovation priorities.


All eligible entries will be assessed by assessors against each of the following three assessment criteria categories, weighted equally.

  1. Positive impact on water customers, society, and the environment
  2. Innovation enablers and innovative solutions
  3. Capacity, capability, and commitment to deliver

There are four main categories of eligibility criteria for the Catalyst Stream of the Water Breakthrough Challenge, detailed below:

  • Lead entrant – The lead entrant must be a water company (including NAVs) in England and Wales.
  • Funding requested – the entry must be seeking between £150,000 and £2 million from the Fund.
  • Financial requirements – All entry partners are expected to make a minimum 10% financial contribution to Breakthrough entries. Customers should not bear all the risk of initiatives funded through the competition.
  • Terms & conditions – all entrants must agree to and abide by the terms & conditions.

Lead entrant 

The lead entrant to Breakthrough 4 must be one of the licensed regional water only and water and wastewater companies or new entrant water and wastewater companies (NAVs) in England and Wales.

On entry, you will need to:

  • Register for a recording slot (Zoom call) where a three-minute pitch from the entry team will be recorded. This will be used to aid the understanding of the assessors when reviewing your entry and should be the same presentation that you would use if invited to present to judges. You will need to register for a recording slot no later than 25 November at 5 p.m. (GMT).
  • Book a surgery session to answer clarifying questions about the entry and assessment process.
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