The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge is a joint initiative led by MEDRC and The Research Council Oman with funding provided by The Sultan Qaboos Higher Center for Culture and Science.

The challenge seeks to create a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device for short-term use and rapid deployment following a humanitarian crises.

Access to clean fresh drinking water following a disaster is critical to health and survival. Current relief response measures often rely on transporting massive quantities of bottled water into the affected population or distributing water purification devices or tablets that don’t have the ability to rid water of salt.

There is an urgent need for a desalination device that can be deployed quickly and affordably to people in need of drinking water in times of crises. No such product exists on the marketplace today.

The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge carries a $700,000 prize. Launched on March 7th 2018, the Challenge Prize will roll once a year for a period of five years or until the prize has been won.

The challenge is open to any individual, team or organization from across the world who believes they have a product capable of meeting this need.

The complexity of the challenge and the enormity of the cash prize has attracted global attention.  Close to 100 applications were received in 2019 from 30 different countries around the world. Applicants backgrounds were notably diverse, with leading water research entities, commercial organizations, entrepreneurs and individual problem solvers all looking to participate.

Following an initial screening process conducted by MEDRC, 46 teams went on to participate.  15 of these teams successfully reached the deadline to submit their final entry in October 2019. Three devices were considered to be in contention for the prize and these teams were subsequently invited to submit their device to MEDRC for the final phase of the screening process. As no winner was declared, the prize will now run again in 2020.

Registration for the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge opens February 20, 2020 and closes on May 31, 2020.

Queries should be forwarded to


The Application for the Pathway Research Grants is currently Closed

MEDRC invites interested applicants to visit the medrc website for further details on the research call and to apply.

Queries should be forwarded to

Research Grants

In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), MEDRC has launched an international call for research proposals in a bid to spur innovation in small scale desalination technologies.

The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Pathway Research Grants call looks for the development of a small-scale desalination unit capable of supporting a family with limited or no access to fresh water sources. MEDRC is specifically looking for proposals that adopt a highly innovative approach.

MEDRC invites interested applicants to visit the medrc website for further details on the research call and to apply.

Exploring The Challenge

Ciarán Ó Cuinn, MEDRC Center Director and Kevin Price, MEDRC Senior Science & Technology Advisor set out the aims and objectives of the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge in this short 2 minute video clip.

'If we can find a way to get drinking water to people in the first hours and days after a humanitarian crises, we will be doing humanity a huge service'

MEDRC Center Director, Ciarán Ó Cuinn


  These resources are made available for you to download and share

2020 Judging Criteria

Judging Criteria

Infographic OHDC2020 (2)


Background layer_$700 000
The Oman Humanitarian Desalination
Challenge carries a prize of $700,000

What we're looking for


Low Cost

The estimated production cost
of the device will be $20.



The device should be resilient, corrosion
resistant, operate through pictorial instructions,
have a long shelf-life, and should
minimize the use of parts that could be lost.


Short-term use

The device will operate
for a minimum of 30 days.



The device will be hand-held
and easily transportable.


Rate of production

Device will produce a minimum
of 3 liters of purified water per day, including cloudy days.



There will be no addition of chemicals,
fuel, or other external materials, other
than the seawater to be purified.



Device will purify 100 NTU, 35,000 mg/L
seawater to 1000 mg/L TDS and
meet WHO maximum contaminant levels.

Challenge Timeline

Prize Launched
SEP 23
Challenge closed Prize not won
FEB 20
Registration window opens
MAY 31
Registration closed
Competitor device development period
Qualified competitors announced
Submit video of device with written narrative
OCT 4-22
Screening of video and narrative
OCT 25
Notify devices accepted for testing
Screening of devices in MEDRC
Results & official presentation
Repeat if no Prize winner
Repeat if no Prize winner