25 water-tech startups have been selected as semi-finalists for ‘The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge’ by The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) and Ashirvad Pipes in partnership with the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. The challenge was opened for applications in February this year. Selected out of a total of 140 applicants, these 25 startups will now compete for a total prize purse of INR 2.5 crores, which comprises a grand prize of INR 1.75 crore for the winning solution and runner-up and milestone grants for five finalists.
Of the 25 water-tech innovators, four work in the areas of water leakage and distribution, five in wastewater treatment, nine in water purification, three in atmospheric generation of water and four towards enabling water ecosystems. Many of the semi-finalists use deep tech interventions such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Some are working on efficient ways for rainwater harvesting, watershed management, or membrane filtration for purification. All the proposed solutions exhibit a promise to be cost-effective and can be scaled equitably. Six of the 25 shortlisted organizations are founded by women.
Speaking on the occasion, Sudha Srinivasan, CEO, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, said, “It is very encouraging to see that these 25 semi-finalists have innovated and developed potentially scalable solutions that address the most pressing water issues in the country. We are also proud of the fact that women lead several of these startups, working at the cusp of technology and social transformation. We firmly believe that these entrepreneurs will go a long way in solving complex issues within the water ecosystem, and will play a massive role in enhancing the quality of life of people, thereby realizing our dream of a poverty-free India in our lifetime.”
Deepak Mehrotra, Managing Director, Ashirvad Pipes, added, “The/Nudge Prize | Ashirvad Water Challenge aims to nurture technology-based innovations that improve water cycle management. Through this challenge, the focus is to support solutions that improve water quality, enable efficient water harvesting, storage, drainage and reuse, and incentivize behavioral change towards water conservation and waste avoidance. We congratulate the 25 startups for being chosen as the semifinalists and wish them the very best as they begin the user-testing phase.”
For the next six months, each semi-finalist will pilot its project and begin user-testing or expand their solution presence across various locations, to understand scalability potential and impact.
The selection was spread across three stages. In the first stage, the solutions proposed by the applicants were assessed for their relevance towards clean water enablement. Out of 140 applicants, 102 made it to the second stage, where several factors were assessed: applicants’ depth and team credentials; research and proof of concept in their proposed solution & innovation; operations and maintenance requirements; adaptability of the solution; and scalability (market, tech enablement, pricing/revenue models, and sustainability). In the third stage, 35 startups faced another round of rigorous assessments on their scalability, proof of concept, and demographic focus and reach, which helped the panel narrow down the 25 semi-finalists. The selection panel included 11 members from Indus Water, IH2O Asia, Arghyam, IHE Delft, Aavishkaar, and Social Alpha.