The Water Innovation Engine


The Water Innovation Engine

When it comes to ensuring the health and wellbeing of individuals in the developing world and the communities in which they live, access to reliable and clean water is vital.

In an effort to draw attention and energy to the widespread water and sanitation challenges facing millions of people across the developing world, in 2016 the UN Secretary General and the President of the World Bank Group convened the United Nations High-Level Panel on Water, which called for the creation of a ‘Water Innovation Engine’ to encourage coordination and investment in water sector innovation, and “to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

The Engine brings together entrepreneurs, new ideas, and flexible financing to accelerate innovation in the water sector, and will find, test, and scale the most promising innovations and improve the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people. Investments will be made by the Global Innovation Fund and Grand Challenges Canada with the backing of the Australian Government and Global Affairs Canada.

We will support evidence-based innovation to tackle pressing challenges in the water sector for households, cities, and watersheds. GIF is excited to also serve as the secretariat for the Engine.

Initially, the Engine is running two funding challenges – improved data for decision-making in the water sector, and sustainable, equitable urban sanitation – and is now welcoming applications for funding!

Water Data Challenge

The Engine’s ‘Water Data Challenge’ will be led by GIF.

Current estimates show that the world may face a 40% shortfall in water availability by 2030. Water flows are becoming increasingly variable, and water quality increasingly threatened. When supplies are scarce or quality poor, it is often the poorest who suffer — managing water resources is, therefore, critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We want to hear from innovators who are seeking breakthroughs that cost-effectively improve smallholder farmers’ productivity, income, or resilience; or that help to optimise water use at the system, watershed, or basin level so as to enhance resilience or promote inclusive growth. The breakthroughs could involve new ways to generate, assemble, and use data; new institutional mechanisms or business models for using and disseminating data; and new ways to build capacity – for individuals, firms, social enterprises or governments.

To learn more, check out the Water Data Challenge website.

Apply now!

The process for the Water Data Challenge is as follows:

  • We accept applications from innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups, researchers, non-profits, and government agencies. We encourage applications from women-led organizations and organizations located in low or low-middle income countries. We are interested in proposals that have a partner from a low- or low-middle income country.
  • Criteria include potential to scale to benefit millions of people; depth of impact; benefits for people living under $5/day or for vulnerable groups; ability to measure success and willingness to share lessons learned; and qualifications of team. We are interested in applications that promote gender equity.
  • Awards: GIF can fund pilot-stage proposals (proof of concept) up to $230,000, and test and transition (demonstration) proposals up to $1 million. We have great flexibility in financial instruments and can provide grants, debt, or equity.  Typically, private sector investees would receive debt or equity finance unless they are creating a public good.
  • Timeline: Applications are currently being accepted, and are reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • How to apply: Please submit an initial application via our main applications portal.  When filling in the form, please note “Water Data Challenge” at the top of the Application Summary field.