Applications open for Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge with $700,000 prize

December 03, 2018

MEDRC Water Research and The Research Council (TRC) have announced the opening of the online application window for the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize.

The challenge, which is open to applicants from all over the world, is a new joint initiative led by MEDRC Water Research and TRC and funded by the Sultan Qaboos Higher Center for Culture and Science (SQHCCS).

Officially launched in March, prize money of US$700,000 will be awarded to the person or team that presents a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device suitable for short-term use and rapid deployment in the event of a humanitarian crisis.

“Providing cheap, off-grid and hand-held desalination is a humanitarian game-changer often debated but never attained. It takes time and money to get fresh water to the victims of war or meteorological disasters where fresh water sources are destroyed or when seawater submerges communities. We need a way to get water to these people in the first hours and days following the crisis. That’s MEDRC’s goal through the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge,” said Ciaran O Cuinn, centre director of MEDRC.

Applicants are being asked to register through the official challenge website ( The closing date for registration is February 28, 2019.

Once initial registration forms have been received and reviewed for completeness, MEDRC will announce the official list of qualified entries in March 2019. Competitors will then be given five months to build their device and submit a written narrative along with an accompanying video of their device in operation in August 2019.

Speaking about the challenge, Dr Hilal Ali al Hinai, secretary general of TRC, said, “We call on the world’s great scientists, engineers and problem solvers to compete in this challenge to push the boundaries of science through innovation and excellence and by doing so, to save lives in the process.”

The winning device must be low cost (estimated production cost of US$20), hand-held and easily transportable, easy to use, robust (corrosion resistant, long shelf life and with limited use of small parts that could be lost) and for short term use (operate for a minimum of 30 days).

Other criteria include rate of production (it should produce minimum three litres of purified water per day) and the device being stand alone (no addition of chemicals, fuel or other external materials).

If no winner is declared in 2019, the challenge will roll over each year until 2022 unless it is won in the interim. This timeline will allow anyone in the world to develop a device to compete once, or even after refinement, several times, to win this prize.

In parallel and in support of this initiative, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with MEDRC on a second track of funding.

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