International law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has provided support on key intellectual property matters as part of a campaign from the national water regulator to foster new innovations for the sector.

WBD's IP strategist Alison Orr provided expertise to competing innovations and projects as part of economic water regulator Ofwat's Water Discovery Challenge, which saw 20 innovative projects from outside the sector receive up to £50,000 to develop their innovations, with access to a range of expert support such as IP from WBD and mentoring from water companies.

Ten of these projects progressed to the next round, receiving a further £450,000 with the aim of highlighting how new solutions can help pressing challenges in the sector.

The challenge forms part of the regulator's wider £200 million Innovation Fund, a programme run in conjunction with Challenge Works, a social enterprise founded by Nesta, sustainable developer Arup, and innovation consultancy Isle Utilities, which aims to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate and meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment.

As part of the firm's support of the project, Alison delivered a tailored workshop for the competition's 20 finalists on IP strategy and how best to align with business strategy with a focus on spotting and managing key risks, including IP ownership considerations in the context of collaborative research projects, and opportunities to protect and exploit their innovations.

She also delivered one-on-one sessions for finalists and key collaborators to upskill members on IP topics specific to individual projects, including a review of the wider IP landscape, highlighting key opportunities to protect and further exploit assets around the project.

Alison said:

"It was a pleasure to work with Ofwat and its other key delivery partners on this important project. It highlights the UK's innovative and collaborative culture and showcases how innovations from other sectors can find new uses and be applied to and benefit the water sector. It was a privilege to provide support on how these great ideas can be protected in a way which best fits those who have worked so hard bringing them to life.

This support is important to ensure they are aware of the IP risks, opportunities, and management activities needed to future-proof the project development at an early stage, and with this being the first time the Fund has engaged external IP support, we hope it will help mould future delivery of these brilliant projects and ensure funding is directed for optimal impact."

The 10 successful projects will receive additional support over the coming months for further development before pitching their projects to potential water company partners or investors.

Caecilie Hougaard Pedersen from Ofwat Innovation Fund/Challenge Works, said:

"We would like to thank Alison and Womble Bond Dickinson for their unrivalled IP support during this latest phase of the Water Discovery Challenge as it has provided our finalists and winners with invaluable knowledge and skills needed to ensure these brilliant ideas and delivery methods can be utilised to their maximum potential."

Womble Bond Dickinson's IP team can provide support across matters across patents, trademarks, copyright, and designs, from advising on complex IP transactions and licensing agreements to ensuring trademarks and designs are registered and maintained across the world.