Advancing the Frontier in Lead Detection: A Call for Innovation

June 26, 2023

Last week’s Open Innovation Webinar set the stage for a potential breakthrough in Public Health: Non-Invasive Lead Service Line detection. Our very own Ebie Holst, Director of Clusters and Innovation, spoke with industry expert Brenda Culler, Cleveland Water’s Lead Program Manager, and together they unveiled CWA’s 2023 Open Innovation Challenge: a global call to action. This program invites innovators, thinkers, and doers worldwide to push boundaries and create a device for accurately detecting service line materials, including lead, without digging. Up to $75,000 in awards await winning solutions, encouraging participation and fostering ingenuity.

Culler outlined the expectations for the innovation, articulating the need for a device that would not only reduce the complexities associated with digging and excavation but also ensure a high level of accuracy in identifying lead service lines. "What we need is not just a device," she declared, "but a revolutionary approach that can bring a seismic shift in how we view service line detection." This system would operate externally, eliminating the need for traditional excavation and the associated costs.

This is a mission as much as it is a competition. The implications of this project are enormous, not just for cost savings but for the overall enhancement of public health. Beyond the challenge, it's about "safeguarding public health and boosting public confidence in our drinking water," as Brenda passionately stated.

Participants' innovations will undergo rigorous testing at Cleveland Water's service line research facility, emulating everyday scenarios. "This will be a rigorous test of technology and innovation," she affirmed, "under realistic conditions that resemble everyday scenarios." We're not just looking for another device; we're looking for a tool that can stand up to the realities of the field and perform with a high level of accuracy.

For the broader market implications, Brenda hinted at the potential for substantial revenue. "With the average cost of digging and identifying a single service line being about $1,500," she speculated, "imagine the potential of a device that can accurately assess multiple sites in a day!" This foresight shows the significant impact the winning solution could have, transcending the immediate benefit of the prize money.

Finally, Brenda issued a stirring appeal: "The challenge is on, and the world awaits your innovative solutions. Let's create a safer, healthier world together." She encouraged all interested participants and innovators to seize this opportunity to make a substantial difference in the world of water service line detection.

In response to Brenda's call, we invite you to submit your proposals, follow the guidelines, and rise to this challenge here:

Open Innovation Challenge Info

Watch the webinar recording here to learn more:

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