Competition intensifies for Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge

MUSCAT, sept 28 – The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge is a global water prize offering a $700,000 cash reward to the winner. First announced in March 2018, the Challenge seeks delivery of a low-cost, stand-alone, hand-held desalination device, suitable for short-term use and rapid deployment during humanitarian crises. The aim of the Challenge is to stimulate innovation in small-scale desalination and to contribute to solutions to freshwater scarcity, key areas of focus for organisers MEDRC and The Research Council of Oman (TRC).
“MEDRC has always had a close working relationship with the TRC and it was during one of my many conversations with the then Secretary General, Dr Hilal al Hinai that the concept for a water research prize such as this was conceived. At the time we were discussing the potential for existing desalination technologies to become miniaturized in terms of cost, scale and environmental impact. The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge is a direct result of that conversation and is an attempt to focus the transformative potential of desalination technologies on wider humanitarian and development needs,” said Ciarán Ó Cuinn, MEDRC centre director.
A key function of the Challenge is the low barrier to entry, being open to anyone regardless of professional background or expertise. Despite the pandemic, the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge drew global interest this year, with 47 teams from 20 different countries applying, spanning a range of backgrounds including water research centres, private companies and start-ups, alongside individual innovators and problem solvers.
Designed to continue each year until 2022 or until a winner is declared, this year’s call for applications opened in February as the first impacts of the COVID-19 virus registered across the world.
In recognition of the mass disruption caused by the pandemic, MEDRC extended the closing date for applications from March 26 to May 11, 2020.
From the pool of 47 applicants, and following a preliminary review round, 34 teams progressed to qualify as authorised competitors.
These teams now have until October 4, 2020, to submit a video and written narrative, detailing how their innovation meets each of the 7 prize criteria. MEDRC will conduct a review of each submission to determine a shortlist. Shortlisted finalists are required to submit their working devices for testing and final judging.