Announcing the judges for the Innovation in Water Challenge

  • Catherine Thompson

    Catherine Thompson

    Programme Manager

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16 Feb 2021

Ofwat and Nesta Challenges have announced the judging panel for the £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge, which aims to help tackle the biggest challenges facing the water industry.

Led by Ofwat, in partnership with Nesta Challenges, Arup and Isle Utilities, the Challenge is looking for collaborative and innovative initiatives that will meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment in the years to come. The challenges it seeks to address range from achieving net zero, to protecting natural ecosystems from leakages or pollution and delivering better value for money for water customers in England and Wales. 

The inaugural Challenge is the first of two launching this year as part of Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund. It aims to support innovative initiatives that the water sector would otherwise be unable to invest in or explore – with each winning entrant receiving between £50,000 and £250,000. It is open to water companies and NAVs (new appointments and variations) from England and Wales together with partner organisations (which may be outside of the water sector). 

The judging panel are: 

Rachel Skinner is Executive Director (Transport) of WSP and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. She is also the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). In 2019, she was appointed by the Scottish Government as a Commissioner for the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland. Rachel is a Patron of Women in Transport (a not-for-profit), having been one of its founding board members since 2005. She is a chartered engineer, chartered transport planner and an ICE Fellow and Trustee.

Nicole Ballantyne is a chartered Mechanical Engineer with 3 decades of industry experience in the manufacturing sector, and in innovation support. As Knowledge Transfer Manager in the Manufacturing Team at KTN, Nicole makes targeted links to the right knowledge, partners, facilities and funding with a view to driving productivity, efficiency and economic growth.

Myrtle Dawes is a Chartered Chemical Engineer, with extensive experience in the energy sector. Myrtle has taken on an array of roles, from being an offshore engineer working for BP, designing offshore and onshore infrastructure in the UK and overseas, to driving digital transformation, and now leading the development of technology for net zero in the energy sector. 

Chris Newsome is currently an independent Non-Executive Director at Affinity Water and a Director of UK Water Partnership. He has spent the majority of his career in the water industry managing major asset bases and planning for, designing and delivering innovative programmes of work.

Professor Savic is Chief Executive Officer at KWR Water Research Institute based in the Netherlands and Professor of Hydroinformatics at the University of Exeter in the UK. He is an international expert in smart water systems with over 35 years of experience working in engineering, academia and research consultancy.

Adam Scorer is Chief Executive of National Energy Action. He has been a consumer rights campaigner for many years including at Which?, energywatch, Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice. As a consumer advocate he has been a member of numerous advisory boards and committees from civil aviation to insurance fraud. Fuel poverty and consumer vulnerability have been a focus throughout his career and Adam was appointed Chief executive at NEA in December 2017. 

Lila Thompson is the Chief Executive of British Water. Lila was formerly responsible for the delivery of British Water’s international services which included leading scoping and business development visits to a wide range of markets including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, China and India.

Rhodri Williams is currently the Wales Chair for CCW. Rhodri has extensive experience of working in numerous executive and non-executive roles in both the public and private sector and is currently a non-executive Board Member of S4C. He previously served as Ofcom’s first Director in Wales where he played a leading role in ensuring people – particularly in rural areas – received access to fast broadband speeds and mobile services. 

The judges’ breadth of expertise  will bring insights from both water and other sectors, as well as a deep understanding of innovation itself and customer concerns. 

“We have a fantastic panel of judges working together with us on this Challenge – drawing expertise from a number of sectors and disciplines that, together, will bring invaluable insight to the judging and assessing process. We believe partnerships and collaboration are at the heart of meeting the challenges facing the water industry – and we are looking forward to receiving new and exciting ideas that will help change the sector for years to come.” 

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat 

“We’re excited about the Innovation in Water Challenge. It has the potential to change the industry and bring about long-term benefits for customers, society and the environment. We anticipate receiving a high calibre of entries that will make the task of judging them exciting but challenging. However, we’re confident that we have the right insights and expertise from across the industry and beyond within our judging panel to help us assess the entries.” 

Chris Gorst, Director of Challenges at Nesta Challenges 

To find out more and apply for the IWC visit The deadline for entries is 12 noon (GMT) on 26 February 2021 with the winners of the IWC announced in March. 

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