Young innovators from 78 countries develop new solutions to world’s water challenges

Students from 78 countries have proposed ideas to address intensifying global water challenges with entries in the 2023 Global Student Innovation Challenge hosted by water technology company Xylem. More than 1,000 students created new solutions for a range of pressing water issues, including green hydrogen production and reducing plastic pollution.

Now in its third year, the challenge invites the next generation of water innovators to empower them to become leading contributors to environmental challenges. This year, students were challenged to analyse the water impact of green hydrogen; move from awareness to action on water issues; prevent waterway pollution using data science; and consider the water-energy-emissions nexus in buildings.

“The water issues of today and tomorrow would not be solved by doing things the same way they have always been done. Solving today’s water challenges demands innovative ideas and approaches,” Patrick Decker, Xylem president and CEO, said. “Engaging this new generation of water leaders and connecting them with a bigger platform to make global impact is critical. We are energised by the insight, ingenuity, and ambition so many students have brought to this challenge.”

The winning teams shared a US$20,000 prize pool and a place in Xylem Ignite Innovation Incubator, a programme that supports participants in scaling solutions. Xylem recognised the winning teams at a virtual ceremony held on 16 Jun 2023.

Team WASTE2H from Porto, Portugal, is this year’s grand prize winner in the secondary school category, recognised for their work in analysing and reducing the water impact of green hydrogen production. “Producing green hydrogen can be very water intensive,” the team said. “Our solution combines the sustainable energy used to generate green hydrogen with a production method that uses marine purple photosynthetic bacteria which can be grown using wastewater.” The team’s proposed solution of using wastewater could reduce the intensity of clean water required to produce hydrogen.

The Ocean Rescuers Team from India, Hong Kong, and Pakistan is the 2023 grand prize winner in the university category, for its approach to identifying, mapping, and proposing a solution for a waterway impacted by plastic pollution. “Our project developed a detailed scoring system to identify and rank high-risk plastic pollution sites in India,” said the team. “But our approach has universal relevance. It can be applied to other regions to identify pollution hot spots and develop targeted solutions.”

The Global Student Innovation Challenge is part of Xylem Ignite, a youth programme designed to inspire the next generation of water leaders to drive changes in the water industry. Increasing youth engagement in solving global water challenges is a key part of the group’s sustainability goals and in 2022, more than 11,000 students participated in Xylem Ignite events including the Global Student Innovation Challenge, hackathons, and the Ignite Innovation Incubator.