Please note that the details of this Challenge are no longer open. This challenge is awarded and is no longer accepting new submissions. You can:
Challenge Pathogen Monitoring Challenge – Stage 1

Pathogen Monitoring Challenge – Stage 1

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 132
Posted: May 10 2018
Challenge ID: 9933767
Team Project Rooms are available on this Challenge. Team Share Challenge Share

This Challenge seeks to identify new or improved methods for monitoring pathogens, specifically viruses, to facilitate the indirect and direct reuse of municipal wastewater for potable uses as a means to alleviate water shortages and expand current water supplies. In indirect potable reuse, treated wastewater enters an environmental buffer, such as a stream, reservoir or groundwater aquifer, intended for use as a drinking water source.  This reuse may be de facto (in effect) or engineered (intentional) with the latter involving advanced water treatment prior to the environmental buffer. In direct potable reuse, the environmental buffer is removed and treated wastewater undergoes advanced water treatment in an engineered system prior to reuse as a drinking water source. Solutions must improve on the current state of technology for either direct virus monitoring in wastewater or surrogate monitoring of reverse osmosis process integrity. Areas of needed improvement include: sampling time, measurement accuracy and measurement sensitivity.

This is Stage 1 of a planned two-stage Challenge, with the second stage consisting of a prototype demonstration and a larger prize purse. The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) is the Seeker for this Challenge, and Xylem, Inc. is a co-sponsor of this Challenge contributing to all aspects of this Challenge including the prize purse. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Water Research Foundation are collaborating on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. The California State Water Resource Control Board is contributing to the design and judging of this Challenge.



This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Reclamation or the Department of the Interior (DOI).  The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with Reclamation or DOI unless a Solver wins the Challenge.  To collect an award, Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation. Please consult the Challenge-Specific Solver Agreement.


A brief video describing this Challenge can be found here.

Droughts, altered weather patterns, increasing populations and water demands, and poor management of resources are some of the factors that contribute to water shortages worldwide. In response to this problem, municipal wastewater reuse/recycling/reclamation is being developed as a viable solution to address water scarcity. Wastewater reuse is needed to meet water demands and develop resilient water supplies. Although there are currently no federal regulations governing wastewater reuse in the U.S., some states have developed or are developing standards for potable versus non-potable reuse applications. Public health is of the utmost importance in the production of drinking water. Thus, pathogen monitoring techniques must be rapid, accurate, and sensitive. Raw wastewater contains not only debris and particulates, but also microorganisms, such as pathogenic viruses and bacteria. Technology improvements are needed for the efficient monitoring of pathogen concentrations in both raw and treated wastewater to confirm removal and/or inactivation. Effective monitoring of the integrity and performance of water treatment processes is needed where direct monitoring of viruses is not feasible due to their extremely low concentrations. Reclamation and our collaborators aim to stimulate innovation in water monitoring technologies that can lead to more effective, affordable, and reliable methods to ensure water quality and protection of public health. We are launching the Pathogen Monitoring Challenge to accelerate the development of both direct and indirect virus monitoring methods for water reuse applications.



This Challenge consists of two stages:

  • Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge. Participants will be asked to submit an idea, along with detailed descriptions, specifications, supporting data or literature, and requirements necessary to bring the idea closer to becoming a product. Stage 1 may award up to five prizes from a total prize award pool of $80,000.
  • If Stage 1 produces winning concepts and Reclamation determines a Stage 2 competition is beneficial, it will launch a subsequent Reduction-to-Practice Challenge. Participants will be asked to present their technology and submit a working prototype that puts their idea into practice. Stage 2 is anticipated to have a larger prize purse than Stage 1. In addition to the direct monetary award for Stage 2, Reclamation will invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives to the Stage 2 presentations and testing.  Participating industry, non-profit organization, and venture capital representatives will have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers.  Reclamation will invite and encourage Stage 1 winning solvers to participate, but will also open Stage 2 to the public for new submissions.

This posting only launches the Stage 1 competition. If Stage 2 is conducted, it will be officially launched and announced with a separate Challenge posting.

Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge that requires only a written proposal to be submitted. Reclamation has a total prize pool budget of $80,000, with half of that amount contributed by Xylem, Inc. The minimum full award amount is $15,000 for solutions that meet all of the stated solution criteria.  However, Reclamation can allocate higher individual award amounts up to $40,000, as it deems appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon evaluation by the Reclamation and the judging panel appointed by Reclamation.  A total of up to five awards can be made for the highest ranked submissions meeting or exceeding the requirements (“Solution Requirements” described in the Challenge details). However, the meeting of all Solution Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will be awarded by Reclamation in the event that more than five submissions meet all Solution Requirements. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

Submission period ends on August 8, 2018: Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on August 8, 2018. Late submissions will not be considered.



After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and decide the winning solution(s). The Judging Panel may be composed of federal and/or non-federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge. All Solvers that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions by November 6, 2018. Decisions by Reclamation cannot be contested.



Solvers do not have to participate in Stage 1 to be eligible to participate in Stage 2. Stage 1 participants are not required to compete in Stage 2.

Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seeker or Seeker’s Collaborators to be eligible to receive an award. Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information.  Accordingly, Solvers should protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal prior to submission). See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

This Challenge is being conducted by Reclamation under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. C. § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (PL-114-329), which states that cash prize purse awards for this Challenge may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by Reclamation before cash prize purses are awarded.  See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details. 

Cash prize purse payments: Payments will be paid in full to the eligible registered individual, entity, or team selected as a winner.  Please see Payment of Award to Winners in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Registering as a team:  Teams must register to compete by having the Team Leader form a Team Project Room.  The Team Leader must be a U.S. citizen, permanent U.S. resident, or representative of a U.S. entity eligible to receive a cash prize. In the case of a team registration, the cash prize purse can be split and paid directly to eligible team members as directed by the registered eligible team leader. Reclamation will not make payments to team members that are not eligible under 15 U.S.C. §3719 to receive a cash prize.

Team Project Room requests must be made no later than one (1) week prior to the Challenge deadline. Once registered, click on ‘Form a Team’ at the top of the Challenge page for further instructions.

Participation by those not eligible for cash prizes: Submissions will be accepted from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. entities, and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any. Meritorious submissions from non-U.S. citizens, non-U.S. permanent residents, and non-U.S. entities may also be recognized in publications issued by Reclamation announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases.

Full eligibility details and other restrictions are found in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.




The Bureau of Reclamation is the sponsoring agency for this prize competition and is an agency of the United States Federal Government with a mission to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.  



Xylem, Inc. (XYL) is a co-sponsor of this Challenge and contributed half of the prize purse for this Challenge. Xylem also contributed significant efforts to the Challenge design and will help judge submissions. Xylem is a leading global water technology company committed to developing innovative technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. The Company’s products and services move, treat, analyze, monitor and return water to the environment in public utility, industrial, residential and commercial building services, and agricultural settings. With its October 2016 acquisition of Sensus, Xylem added smart metering, network technologies and advanced data analytics for water, gas and electric utilities to its portfolio of solutions. The combined Company’s nearly 16,000 employees bring broad applications expertise with a strong focus on identifying comprehensive, sustainable solutions. Headquartered in Rye Brook, New York with 2015 revenue of $3.7 billion, Xylem does business in more than 150 countries through a number of market-leading product brands.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Water Research Foundation are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge, such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. The California State Water Resource Control Board is contributing to the design and judging of this Challenge.

What is InnoCentive?
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is a Theoretical Challenge?

An InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge builds upon an idea but is not yet a proof of concept. A solution to a Theoretical Challenge will solidify the Solver's concept with detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to bringing a good idea closer to becoming an actual product or service. For details about treatment of IP rights, please see the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

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