MIT Water Innovation Prize awards student start ups $20,000 in innovation grants

Originally Posted at

April 13, 2015

MIT’s first-ever competition for water startups sets the groundwork for students to initiate enterprises that tackle global water challenges.As concerns about water scarcity, a growing world population, and mounting pressures from climate change put further strain on our global water resources, so does the MIT community strive harder than ever to promote the importance of water innovation.

Team "WellDone" takes first place in the MIT Water Innovation Prize competition. Photo: MIT Water Club
Team “WellDone” takes first place in the MIT Water Innovation Prize competition.
Photo: MIT Water Club

On April 6, the student-led MIT Water Club hosted the final pitches for its inaugural Water Innovation Prize — an opportunity for MIT students to work in tandem with real-world investment, corporate, and/or entrepreneurial mentors on ventures with application in monitoring and analytics, oil and gas, recycling and reuse, and drinking water and sanitation.

“Water is a critical resource of scale, and how we deal with it will define human progress in the decades to come,” said Professor Markus Buehler, head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). “This student initiative applies multiple dimensions ranging from science, engineering, and policy to entrepreneurship, the nexus of which holds the key to solving the problem.”

Over the course of four months, seven MIT-based teams prepared their enterprises for the chance to win $20,000 in innovation grants, sponsored by PepsiCo. The celebratory showcase attracted more than 200 students, faculty, and business leaders, all of whom attended to listen to the water solutions devised by the MIT teams.

According to Voeller, the Water Club and this new competition both demonstrate a truly diverse cross-section across all departments at MIT. The prize was created to establish a platform for collaboration as well as commercialization of water technologies and processes across a range of domestic and global sectors.

“There is a growing community at MIT committed to take the next step in water innovation. Water management and treatment are critical to our communities, businesses, and environment,” said the competition’s founding director Liz Voeller, a graduate student in the Sloan School of Management. “Here at MIT, we are tackling these issues in the lab, in the classroom, as student-led side projects, and ultimately, as alumni. The prize encourages the MIT community to bring these solutions to the market in a feasible, scalable way that has real impact.” The prize was co-sponsored by CEE, a department in which the study of global water challenges is highly relevant.

The first prize, a $10,000 innovation grant, was awarded to team “WellDone,” a group of three that developed a remote monitoring technology that improves visibility and accountability of rural water infrastructure. WellDone International executives Austin McGee and Tim Burke work with Ben Armstrong, MIT political science graduate student, to bring impactful data to resource-constrained communities for improved critical infrastructure.




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