About the initiative:

By the end of this decade, global freshwater demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40% due to a combination of population growth, climate change and weak water governance.

While the numbers vary by country, agriculture irrigation accounts for about 70% of global water withdrawal, industry and energy for 19%, and the remaining is for household use – having already depleted 21% of the planet’s largest 37 groundwater resources.

To drive the freshwater conservation and management agenda, leading global conglomerate, HCL has partnered with UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum that connects highly promising start-ups with the partners and funding they need to scale. Through a $15 million investment over five years, HCL will help accelerate the innovation agenda for water and create a first-of-its-kind innovation ecosystem for the global freshwater sector on UpLink, called the ‘Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative’.

This initiative will draw on HCL’s own regional experience of driving innovative projects in water conservation and brings global leaders and champions together, to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration. In building this ecosystem, water entrepreneurs will be able to thrive and influence freshwater ecosystems all over the world.

Zero Water Waste Challenge, 2023

This five-year Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative aims to find innovative solutions that conserve and restore freshwater ecosystems. This is the second out of five innovation challenges, focusing on freshwater usage.

Challenge Overview

This challenge calls for innovative water usage approaches to improve freshwater conservation from supply to demand, moving towards zero water waste. 10 winners will receive a total of a 1.75M CHF financial award.

In line with the Global Commission of the Economics of Water, this challenge is seizing high potential opportunities to bolster global water conservation by sourcing innovative approaches to water usage that will strengthen freshwater ecosystem resilience from supply to demand.

It is looking for existing innovations that capture alternative water resources to protect groundwater reserves and avoid unnecessary loss of water, reuse water before discharging it back into the water cycle — ideally, recycling materials we gain from wastewater as an alternative energy resource and avoiding any type of water pollution — as well as smart irrigation solutions to benefit those who most need it. Solutions that work with big data and AI, and employ innovations in their service, pricing, partnerships, and business models are particularly encouraged to apply.

1. Capturing and protecting freshwater supply
Protecting groundwater reservoirs by capturing additional water resources. Solutions could focus on recharging groundwater, capturing storm- and rainwater or water from the atmosphere, preventing or minimizing leakages, boosting ecosystem resilience or monitoring and managing freshwater.
2. Water re-use and recycling of materials

Increase water-efficiency by reusing and recycling water resources. Solutions could include products that enable shower, washing machine and sink water to be recycled for non-potable uses, or reuse of water in industrial facilities, cleaner and greener tech to purify reused water etc. Ideally need to manage trade-offs, e.g. need to have sustainable energy support, as well as focus on water quality.

3. Saving water in agriculture

Reduce water withdrawal in agriculture through smart irrigation. Solutions could include precision irrigation, remote sensing, regenerative agricultural practices focused on water retention, and technologies such as mobile applications to optimize the amount and timing of water applied to crops.

Global Freshwater Challenge, 2022

To drive the freshwater conservation and management agenda, leading global conglomerate HCL partnered with UpLink to accelerate the innovation agenda for water. They will create a first-of-its-kind innovation ecosystem to enable water-focused entrepreneurs (Aquapreneurs) to scale and thrive. This five-year Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative seeks solutions that conserve and restore freshwater ecosystems, making them healthier and more resilient. This was the first out of five innovation challenges.

Submissions 454
Winners 10

Top 10 Aquapreneurs from FIRST CHALLENGE

Our Blog

Private Sector, Public Water: Why Enterprises Must Address Global Water Insecurity

By: Sundar Mahalingam, President – Strategy, HCL Corporation

A Freshwater Future: Without Blue, There Is No Green Economy

Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation