Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge, 2023

MEDRC has announced the opening of team registration for this year’s Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition. The Prize Competition is a global water prize that looks to award 700,000 USD to the person or team that can invent a small, cheap and easy to use desalination device that would enable people in emergency situations to single handedly purify salty or contaminated water to a safe drinking standard. Today’s announcement comes after MEDRC has completed the screening process for all the 2020-2021 entries and officially declared that no winning device was found.

A joint initiative led by MEDRC and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition was first launched in 2018 in Muscat. This is the third time the Prize Competition has been open to competitors. Competitors may be individuals, companies, academic institutions, nonprofits and others.

The complexity of the challenge and the enormity of the cash prize has helped to attract global attention.  MEDRC reports that 48 registrations were received in 2020 from 20 different countries around the world. Competitor backgrounds were notably diverse, with leading water research entities, commercial organizations, entrepreneurs and individual problem solvers all participating. Following an initial screening process conducted by MEDRC, 32 qualified teams went on to participate, 13 of which reached the deadline to submit their entry. One device was tested by MEDRC and came very close to meeting the competition selection criteria.

On opening the application for 2023, MEDRC Center Director, Ciarán Ó Cuinn said “Current technologies that turn seawater into fresh water are a miracle. But they are expensive, energy intensive and involve large-scale industrial processes. That needs to change. The Oman Humanitarian Challenge is about miniaturizing that technology, making it cheaper, more environmentally sustainable and accessible globally. We’re getting scientists and engineers to focus on delivering a $20, off-grid, handheld device that can desalinate enough seawater to sustain a human being for 30 days. Delivering this will be a humanitarian and technological game-changer. Each year we get a little closer. Working with Oman’s great Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation we’re determined to close the gap and make this desalination breakthrough.”

The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition specifically looks to deliver a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device for short-term use and rapid deployment following humanitarian crises.  Submitted devices will be judged against each of the following competition selection criteria;

  1. Hand-held: Device needs to be a hand-held size and easily transportable.
  2. Stand-alone: There will be no addition of chemicals, fuel or other external materials other than the seawater to be purified.
  3. Low-cost: The estimated production cost of the device will be $20 or less.
  4. Short-term use: The device will operate for a minimum of 30 days.
  5. Quality: The device will purify 100 NTU, 35,000 mg/L TDS and meet WHO maximum contaminant levels.
  6. Rate of production: The device will produce a minimum of 3 liters of purified water per day including cloudy days.
  7. Robust: The device should be resilient, corrosion resistant, have a long shelf-life and should minimize the use of parts that could be lost. The device should be easy to operate following pictorial instructions.

MEDRC has setup a globally representative international panel of experts to assist the challenge and form the judging panel. They are comprised of representatives from the funding entities alongside internationally renowned water experts.

The online application is currently open and will close on May 31, 2023. for further details or to apply