United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Softys Water Challenge (SWCh).

Softys (
Private sector

    Softys Water Challenge is an innovation challenge that invites entrepreneurs and startups from around the world to seek and propose solutions around access to water. In its first version, the objective was to solve the global problem of scarcity of water resources, through the generation of access in communities that today do not have it. We received more than 500 applications from around the world, where 85 projects 100% fulfilled the contest rules. Then, we chose 19 semifinalist projects from 14 countries, which received support, networking with institutions and key players in the field, for the acceleration of their innovations, for 2 months.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The project was announced on January 13 2020, with the launch of the innovation contest, in a COP25 sponsored event. However, our work began in 2019, developing the idea, looking for the best allies to achieve the goal, among other key aspects of the proyect. 500 applications were received from 31 countries around the world, which were reviewed in detail by an expert jury, and of which 85 fulfilled 100% of the application bases. On March 19, the 19 semifinalist ideas were published, entrepreneurs who started a complete program of accompaniment and acceleration for two months by the team of the Center for Innovation of the Catholic University in Chile. This contemplated networking with institutions and key actors in the field, generating an associative culture among entrepreneurs, financial and legal support, etc. The purpose was to increase the value of the products and / or services proposed by the teams, so that not only we would have 3 winners, but 19 innovations that advance one extra mile. On July 17 it was narrowed down to the 10 finalist projects that would participate for the implementation award. The evaluation was carried out considering the technical potential of the solution, the value proposition and degree of appropriability, the commercial potential of the solution, the equipment, the capital raising and the sales of the applicant startup. With 16 experts on the jury, on August 20 the three winners of the contest were announced among whom USD 45,000 was distributed. The winning projects were: Isla Urbana, which designs and installs a rainwater catchment system on the roofs of the houses; Remote Waters, through technology for the purification of sea or underground water, generates potable, clean and safe water; and Watergen, uses a device for the production of drinking water through generators that take advantage of the humidity of the environment.


    The main result, due to the level of impact, will be the implementation of water access projects in different communities in Latinamerica. To date, the implementation of the Isla Urbana project in southern Chile (Chiloé Island and Araucanía Region, the poorest in the country) has been decided and started, with other 4 projects in folder. Regarding the first implementation, it will be a solution for a community made up of 12 families who receive 50 liters of water per week per person and who sometimes cannot access it because the cistern truck cannot reach the town. Although these solutions do not pretend to be massive in this first approach, but rather pilot programs, they manage to solve the problem of access to water for people who today are totally geographically remote and were the State has not been able to provide a solution. Subsequently, an evaluation of all the implementations will be carried out, to find opportunities for improvement, learn lessons and know the real impact of the solution. As an additional result, a network of startups was created that is still active and in force, which generates a community that shares good practices.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The success of this initiative was due to: • Generation of an innovative, world-scale competition, where the best solutions for access to water can be selected, considering innovation, their cost effectiveness and the feasibility of being applied in different locations. • Financing amount of USD 45,000 to be distributed among the winners of the contest. • An expert jury that evaluated the projects, choosing the best ones. • The generation of alliances with the Amulén Foundation and the Innovation Center of the Pontificia Universidad Católica, experts in water solutions and project acceleration.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The winning ideas of the contest are projects that are maintained over time, being permanent solutions for access to water for the communities. On the one hand, the innovation contest can be replicated annually, in order to receive the best cost-efficient solutions to be implemented and generate access to water for communities that lack it. At the same time, given the diversity of solutions and their characteristics, the replicability capacity is very high, being able to adapt to different contexts, geographies according to each location in any region and climate.

    Other sources of information

    Softys Water Challenge has its own website: • https://www.softyswaterchallenge.com/es/ It also has different social networks, where you can find out the winning ideas: • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7kdRYegTQk&t=12shttps://www.linkedin.com/showcase/softys-water-challenge/https://www.facebook.com/SoftysWaterChallenge/https://www.instagram.com/softyswaterchallenge/?hl=es-la Finally, it has been promoted in various media around the world and by the UC Innovation Center and the Amulén Foundation. • https://www.softys.com/noticias/softys-lanza-primer-concurso-internacio…

    COVID-19 Impact

    The project suffered delays in its implementation stages due to the pandemic at the beginning of 2020, which generated rescheduling and modifications in the times for the tender and the implementations. One of the difficulties in carrying out the project was the impossibility of face-to-face meetings due to the restrictions in each country. This was ultimately developed through video call meetings and streaming presentations. This project is essential to face the virus and prevent its spread, since hygiene highly depends on having access to water. For these communities, having water today is a reality, which improves their hygiene and care conditions, and increases their possibility of prevention against COVID-19 and other diseases.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    13 January 2020 (start date)
    31 December 2021 (date of completion)
    Other beneficiaries

    The direct beneficiaries are the 2 communities where the solutions will be implemented: in Chiloe (12 houses) and in Lumaco, Araucanía (15 houses and 3 social centers). On the other hand, the 19 startups who generated a network of collaboration and acceleration of their projects in the incubation stage, the three winners, who managed to carry out their project, fulfilling their ideation objective. Besides, we are evaluating implementations in Naschel, Argentina; Cañete, Perú; Caieiras, Brasil and Altamira, México.

    More information
    Contact Information

    María José , Deputy Sustainability Manager for Latinamerica