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HCL Group and UpLink open applications for its third global Aquapreneur innovation challenge

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HCL Group and UpLink announced the third challenge of the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative, the “Tackling Water Pollution Challenge.” This announcement was made during the 10th World Water Forum in Bali, Indonesia. The application deadline for submission is 31st August 2024.  The winners will be announced in January 2025 and the top 10 winners will receive a total financial award of 1.75M CHF.

The Innovation Challenge aims to empower changemakers who are pioneering groundbreaking technologies, strategies, and approaches to conserve, manage, and protect water resources. HCL has pledged US$15 million over five years till 2027 to bolster entrepreneurs focusing on water-related endeavours. The challenge will focus on the intersection of the quality and environmental impacts of water, with the key aspects including:

  1. Preventing contamination of water at source- Source control aims to prevent or minimise the introduction of pollutants and contaminants at their source. Solutions may be aimed at contaminants from industry, agriculture, stormwater etc., and could include real-time monitoring and sensor networks, advanced filtration, and nature-based solutions.
  2. Monitoring and treating onsite industrial wastewater- Water is a core component in many industrial processes from manufacturing, cleaning and sanitation, mining, and cooling. Technological solutions offer a way to monitor water quality and reduce water contamination, minimise environmental impacts and move towards zero liquid discharge for industries.
  3. Optimising urban infrastructure public water and wastewater treatment systems- Water and wastewater treatment infrastructure upgrades are expensive and the costs are climbing. This area will target a broad range of technological solutions that can unlock value by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring compliance.
  4. Offering water quality solutions for households- The convergence of environmental awareness, cost considerations, regulatory pressures, and health concerns is driving the increasing popularity of personal water quality solutions among individuals and households. Technological solutions may include portable water testing, point-of-use water purification, and apps for crowd-sourcing water quality data.

While launching the challenge, Sundar Mahalingam, President of Strategy at HCL Corporation said, “At HCL, we understand the power of innovation and through our partnership with UpLink, we are empowering Aquapreneurs to scale their solutions and drive meaningful impact. The first two editions of the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative have demonstrated remarkable success, with participating entrepreneurs showcasing solutions that address critical water challenges. The Aquapreneurs from the first challenge have raised $54.5 million grants and venture capital funding since joining the cohort. This validates the effectiveness of the initiative in nurturing and supporting innovative ideas that address critical water challenges. We are, therefore, thrilled to announce the third challenge, aiming to engage a broader network of Aquapreneur globally.”

John Dutton, Head of UpLink, World Economic Forum, added, “At UpLink, we believe innovation and collaboration are key to overcoming the complex water challenges facing our planet. UpLink and HCL Group will tap into the world’s brightest entrepreneurial minds working in this sector to help minimise the problem of freshwater loss by connecting them to essential resources, experts, and funding. The Tackling Water Pollution Challenge will ensure that the most scalable solutions are deployed to ensure that this vital resource is sustainably available to all.”

Evaluation and selection criteria for 3rd year includes:

  1. Business viability
    – Demonstrates a financially sustainable business model with a clear revenue approach.
    – Presents a funding history and potential for investment.
    – Identifies and manages external risks effectively.
    – Shows alignment with market demand locally or globally.
    – Has a legal entity and operational plan for financial sustainability.

  2.  Commitment to Deliver Impact
    – Shows sustainable impact benefiting multiple sectors including society and the environment.
    – Aligns with long-term water agenda goals.
    – Utilises a robust framework for impact measurement and verification.
    – Transparently tracks metrics and adheres to relevant standards.

  3. Solution Novelty and Replicability
    – Offers unique aspects in product/service, pricing, partnerships, or business model.
    – Provides evidence of concept feasibility and replicability across different contexts.

As water scarcity and pollution continue to pose significant threats to communities and ecosystems globally, the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative seeks to harness the power of innovation to create sustainable solutions. Selected participants will receive mentorship, funding support, access to networks, media visibility, and other resources to scale their initiatives and maximise their impact.

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