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Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge gets under way


MEDRC Water Research and The Research Council (TRC), Oman have announced the opening of the online application window for the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize.

The challenge, which is open to applicants from all over the world, is a major new joint initiative led by MEDRC Water Research and TRC, with funding provided by the Sultan Qaboos Higher Center for Culture and Science (SQHCCS).

Dr Hilal Ali al Hinai, Secretary-General of The Research Council
Dr Hilal Ali al Hinai, Secretary-General of The Research Council
Ciarán Ó Cuinn, Centre Director, MEDRC.
Ciarán Ó Cuinn, Centre Director, MEDRC.

Officially launched in March 2018, the $700,000 prize will be awarded to the person or team that delivers a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device suitable for short-term use and rapid deployment in the event of a humanitarian crises.

“Providing cheap, off-grid and hand-held desalination is a humanitarian game-changer often debated but never attained. It takes time and money to get fresh water to the victims of war or meteorological disaster where fresh water sources are destroyed or when sea-water immerses communities. We need a way to get water to these people in the first hours and days following the crisis. That’s MEDRC’s goal through the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge”, said Ciarán Ó Cuinn, Centre Director, MEDRC.

Applicants are being asked to register through the official challenge website ( The closing date for registration is February 28, 2019. Once initial registration forms have been received and reviewed for completeness, MEDRC will announce the official list of qualified entries in March 2019. Competitors will then be given 5 months to build their device and submit a written narrative along with an accompanying video of their device in operation, in August, 2019.

Speaking of the challenge, Dr Hilal Ali al Hinai, Secretary-General of TRC, said, “We call on the world’s great scientists, engineers and problem solvers to compete for this challenge, to push the boundaries of science through innovation and excellence and by doing so, to save lives in the process.”

If no winner is declared in 2019, the challenge will roll over each year until 2022 unless it is won in the interim. This timeline will allow anyone in the world to develop a device to compete once, or even after refinement, several times, to win this prize.

In parallel and in support of this initiative, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with MEDRC on a second track of funding. This will support a new Desalination Challenge Research Call supporting pathway research, aimed at delivering a family sized desalination unit.

It is envisaged that in addition to reducing pressure on existing water supplies in the developing world, this unit will act as a precursor to the successful delivery of the individual device sought by the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge. MEDRC aim to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) call for the pathway research grants, through the organisation’s website in January 2019.

The application window for the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge closes on February 28, 2019.

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