Imagine H2O Promotes Competition, Innovation with Prize

The tide of progress in finding sustainable solutions to water problems is rising with the launch of Imagine H2O and its first innovation challenge, with $50,000 in prizes for business plans promising the greatest breakthroughs in the efficient use of water.

With financial backing from Royal Bank of Canada, the Full Circle Fund, Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, and other private foundations, the annual Imagine H2O Prize will inspire solutions by encouraging the competitive and ambitious spirits of entrepreneurs, investors, experts, inventors, and academics around the world, while focusing their energies specifically on water issues.

"What sets this prize apart is our Incubator Program and ‘ecosystem’ for water leaders," said Tamin Pechet, Imagine H2O’s chair and executive director, who co-founded the organization at Harvard Business School in 2007. "The winners will also receive thousands of dollars in business and legal support and access to a network of partners, customers, and financiers to help bring their ideas to market so they can make a real difference."

Kicking off in early May, Imagine H2O’s vision to create opportunities out of crises is being bolstered by support from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the National Water Research Institute, Babson College, and Publicis In The West, among others.

"I applaud Imagine H2O for recognizing the importance of water conservation," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "In a state like California, where we are constantly facing drought restrictions, promoting innovation to more efficiently use water is a must."

The competition’s inaugural prize will focus on water efficiency in agriculture, commercial, industrial, or residential applications, such as water demand reduction, improved water use, water recycling and/or reuse. Entries will be accepted from anyone in the world beginning in September, and winners will be announced at a showcase event in early 2010. Future competitions will have different prize topics addressing other critical water problems.

"Prizes are a unique and powerful tool that can change the public perception of specific issues by signaling their importance and highlighting the need for solutions, which attracts innovators to create those solutions," said Paul Jansen, Director of Knowledge for the Social Sector Practice at McKinsey & Company and a member of Imagine H2O’s Advisory Board.

Indeed, two-thirds of the world’s people may be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025, according to the UN Environment Program. "Few realize the severity and escalation of water problems in the developed world as well as in developing countries," said Pechet. According to the EPA, nearly three-quarters of the states in the U.S. will incur water shortages by 2013.

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