Tech Challenge Sponsorship

Frequently Asked Questions

Thinking about becoming a sponsor of our Tech Challenge? Read on to learn if the program is right for your organization.

What types of corporate sponsors can participate in the Tech Challenge?

Any water technology corporation or business with water-related issues/needs interested in uncovering new innovations to complement their R&D or innovation activities would be a good prospect for the Tech Challenge.

How often are Tech Challenges competitions held?

The Water Council runs two challenges annually, offering multiple topics in spring and fall. Sponsors prioritize their topics of interest for each round and The Water Council promotes the open innovation opportunity with our global network of innovations hubs, industry, academia and laboratories.

What does corporate sponsorship look like?

Tech Challenge sponsorship is an annual fee of $60,000 USD, plus membership with The Water Council. Participation covers the prize money awarded to the winners and The Water Council’s programmatic and technical support for two rounds of the Tech Challenge.

What are the advantages of the Tech Challenge over other programs/competitions?

We can address each sponsor’s individual or collective areas of interest. If one sponsor has a topic need that others don’t, we simply add topics to the competition. The highest value to our sponsors is the global reach of the program and ability to review the proprietary pipeline of applications for potential fit in their organization’s R&D or commercialization interest areas.

One of the most important benefits is access to submissions from researchers and startups that sponsors were NOT previously aware of.

my company has staff resources dedicated to innovation discovery. why should we still participate in tech challenge?

Many companies have their own professionals working to discover new innovations across the world. Yet our sponsors have said in every single round that the vast majority of the applicants were entirely new to them. Even the most motivated companies would be challenged to know everything going on in the world of innovation. The Tech Challenge is a great supplement to your efforts. In addition, the added value for a sponsor is the low cost when compared with hiring and supporting a full-time staff person. It comes down to great value at a low cost.

When do you add new sponsors?

We can accept new sponsors prior to or during any published round but feel that for a sponsor to derive maximum value, joining prior to a round provides the opportunity to shape the topics to match their innovation priorities.

How many sponsors can participate in the program?

We have a maximum of six sponsors for any given round. Limiting the number of sponsors allows The Water Council to provide attentive, meaningful and value-added outcomes for all sponsors.

What is the time and staff commitment of sponsors to participate?

We host a cohort meeting for the sponsors twice a year to discuss upcoming challenge topics. Most importantly, sponsors dedicate blocks of time to participate in application evaluation for each round, provide input to The Water Council with their interests and participate in online interviews with the applicants. We have found that sponsors that provide a team of diverse perspectives are best situated for success.

Who judges/evaluates the applications from the Tech Challenge?

Since the sponsors of the Tech Challenge program are the most knowledgeable about their company’s innovation interests and to protect their corporate IP, each corporate sponsor identifies a diverse internal team involved in innovation, engineering, R&D, product experts and strategy leads to evaluate applications.

How does The Water Council provide administrative and technical support of the Tech Challenge?

The Water Council handles all the competition administration, marketing, global outreach, competition hosting, administration of online meetings, NDA facilitation and technical expertise through our Chief Technology Adviser. The Water Council’s technical adviser also helps guide technology needs statements and provides insights on the applicant pipeline.

What are some examples of previous Tech Challenge topics?

Topics have included IoT water quality sensors; sensors to detect heavy metals and disinfection byproducts; leak detection, inline sensors; energy harvesting for pipe networks and systems; anti-corrosion, anti-fouling and anti-scale coatings, materials and technologies; microbial control; AI for pipe networks and systems; elimination of high OPEX in aerobic wastewater treatment; and more.

If our company joins as a sponsor, can we see pipelines from prior rounds?

We have published the winners from prior rounds on our website and those are publicly available, but only sponsors who are active in a challenge round are eligible to review the entire applicant pipeline. Data from prior rounds are proprietary for those sponsors.

What kind of results can sponsors expect from the Tech Challenge?

The global reach of the program continues to expand each round. The exposure to new innovation is a consistent outcome for our sponsors with approximately 90% of applicants being previously unknown by the sponsors. In the fall 2021 round we had applications from 17 countries.

What do the current sponsors say about their experience with the Tech Challenge?

Watch this video to hear two sponsors’ perspectives on why they participate and the value to their organizations.

“Our participation in Tech Challenge widens our access to innovators who have ideas but haven’t explored marketing their solutions through traditional channels yet,” says Rebecca Tallon, engineering director for water treatment at A. O. Smith Corporation. “It’s been a valuable way to extend our R&D efforts for innovations that would have taken much longer to find on our own.”

What other opportunities does The Water Council offer for Tech Challenge sponsors?

The Water Council leverages all our network relationships for the benefit of our Tech Challenge sponsors. Our high-touch approach means that we are on the lookout throughout the entire year for innovations that match your priorities.

Can a Tech Challenge sponsor connect with startups that have applied for other Water Council innovation programs such as the BREW 2.0 Post Accelerator or the Pilot Program?

If you participate as a corporate sponsor in the Tech Challenge, you will have access to the entire Tech Challenge applicant pipeline. For the BREW 2.0 and Pilot Programs, you would have access only to the published cohort or awardees and not all applicants.

Who is The Water Council?

The Water Council is a global hub dedicated to solving critical water challenges by driving innovation in freshwater technology and advancing water stewardship.

Over the years, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of The Water Council, has earned a global reputation as the freshwater technology capital of the U.S. due to its well-established water technology industry and extensive network of water innovators.

What experience does The Water Council have in supporting innovation?

For more than a decade, The Water Council has supported all stages of water technology innovation, from prototype to pilot to market and beyond. Our suite of innovation programming helps entrepreneurs accelerate and scale their businesses, providing the expertise and connections they need to be successful. With a combination of decades of water industry experience, the professional staff has developed a trusted global network to support large and small businesses, researchers, project partners and funders.

Does The Water Council take a financial interest in the Tech Challenge winners or applicants?

No, The Water Council does not get involved in any investment relationship with Tech Challenge winners or finalists.  Any financial, investment, licensing or other business relationship would be brokered by the sponsor companies with applicants that are of particular interest.

Who can I contact for further questions or additional information?

Reach out to Karen Frost, VP Economic Development & Innovation, at