NREL: Wood Next Fund Partners With American-Made Challenges Prize Competitors To Support Water Desalination Technology Innovations

Winning thousands in cash prizes is just one of the many benefits that comes with being a finalist in an American-Made Challenges (AMC) Prize competition.

Another benefit is that prize competitors have the opportunity to showcase their ideas and make connections with those looking to support their work.

Just this week, 13 teams from two AMC prize competitions designed to address water desalination challenges were chosen to receive a combined $300,000 grant from the Wood Next Fund. The recipients included semifinalist teams from the first round of the Solar Desalination Prize and finalists from the Waves to Water Prize.

Launched in 2021, the Wood Next Fund is the philanthropy of tech innovator Anthony Wood and his wife, Susan. Their philanthropic efforts are guided by their overall mission to support the human spirit, advance human progress, and remove obstacles to a fulfilling life. The fund’s priorities include scientific and biomedical research, mental health and related issues, and economic opportunity, with a focus on addressing the root causes of poverty.

“Although approximately 70% of the world is covered in water, only a miniscule amount is actually drinkable due to its salt content. A solution to this problem would revolutionize water supplies around the globe,” said Anthony Wood, founder of the Wood Next Fund. “Wood Next Fund is extremely pleased to partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to advance water desalination technology development to enable regions worldwide to transform nontraditional water sources into fresh water.”

The Waves to Water Prize is a five-stage competition with a goal of demonstrating small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide clean drinking water for disaster recovery and for remote and coastal communities. The competition offers up to $3.3 million in cash prizes. Sponsored by the Water Power Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Waves to Water supports the integration of existing and novel wave energy generation technologies with water technologies that can provide effective, consistent, durable, and low-maintenance water delivery systems. The prize appreciates current sponsors’ support and invites additional organizations to consider sponsoring activities in the final DRINK Stage of the competition.

Launched in 2020, the Solar Desalination Prize is a four-stage competition designed to accelerate the development of low-cost desalination systems that use solar-thermal power to produce clean water from salt water. Competitors receive cash prizes as they advance through each stage, culminating in a $1 million grand prize for the successful testing and demonstration of a promising solar-thermal desalination system prototype. Sponsored by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, the Solar Desalination Prize recently announced the quarterfinalists for round two.

The Wood Next Fund grant was made through the NREL Foundation, which serves as a bridge between NREL and donors. The foundation provides a mechanism for new partners and new sources of capital to engage with NREL to accelerate the cleantech mission. By aggregating funding in the form of grants from disparate sources in support of programs that are significant to NREL and DOE, the NREL Foundation fills a gap in the current advanced energy space.

“This just goes to show how our competitors are getting noticed for their innovations,” said Debbie Brodt-Giles, manager of the American-Made Challenges Program. “We’re excited to see how this relationship develops and look forward to working with the Wood Next Fund to support entrepreneurs working in this space.”

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