Leeds academic selected by Ofwat to discover the water innovations of tomorrow  

A Leeds academic is among a seven-strong panel who seek to find the next generation of groundbreaking innovations in the water sector. 

Dr Akintunde Babatunde, an Associate Professor in Wastewater Wngineering in the School of Civil Engineering and a member of water@leeds, has been selected as a judge for the inaugural Water Discovery Challenge.

The £5 million competition, operated by the Ofwat Innovation Fund, Challenge Works, Arup, and Isle Utilities, is designed to provide an opportunity for grassroots innovation teams from diverse backgrounds to deliver transformative solutions and benefits for customers, society and the environment.

Together with experts from a range of sectors and disciplines, Dr Babatunde will explore all 20 finalist submissions to find and endorse bold, novel ideas that can help solve the biggest challenges facing the water sector both now and in the future.

He said: “I’m excited to be part of the judging panel of the Water Discovery Challenge. I’m passionate about disruptive ideas, and I look forward to bold challenges to the status quo.

“Such challenges will enable us to continuously adapt and meet the changing needs of the water industry – ultimately delivering transformative benefits for the consumers, society and the environment.”

The seven-member judging panel for the Water Discovery Challenge was chosen to offer a balance of experience across academia, industry, policy development and research, consumer representation, and engineering, with insights from within and outside the water sector.

Joining Dr Babatunde on the panel are:

  • Lisa Allen, Director of Data and Services at the Open Data Institute;
  • Tania Flasck, Managing Director of Water Utilities at ExploreAI;
  • Bradley Jones, Senior Investment Manager at Earth Capital Limited;
  • Martin Osborne, Water Industry Strategic Advisor, Asset Planner and Drainage Expert at Hemdean Consulting;
  • Vanessa Speight, Professor of Integrated Water Systems in the Department of Civil & Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield; and
  • Suhayl Zulfiquar, Chief Executive Officer at Datatecnics.

Up to ten winners will be announced by February 2024, and the combined expertise of the judging panel will help choose those finalists who will have their innovation funded. The ten entries will enter a winners’ stage that runs from February to August 2024, with an award of up to £450,000 to deliver their project, alongside a seven-month package of expert support.

Further information