Pathway 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.

To engage the broadest possible community of researchers and innovators from across the world, MEDRC’s desalination innovation strategy has two approaches - an innovation inducement prize called the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition carrying a $700,000 cash prize, and the international research call announced today with support from USAID.

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, that might eventually lead to the development of the hand-held single user device that the $700,000 Prize looks for.

In 2020 MEDRC awarded a $90,000 grant under its USAID backed pathway research grants to Planet, an Italian startup who have secured the funding to develop their Mangrove Still - a bio inspired, modular, low-cost easy to use solar desalination system.

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


Applications should be forwarded in full to using Subject Line: Desalination Challenge Grant Application
Detailed announcement and application requirements can be found here
Applications Closed

Awarded Pathway Research Grants


MEDRC has announced the recipient of a $90,000 grant under its USAID backed pathway research grants in desalination. Planet, an Italian startup, has secured the funding to develop their Mangrove Still - a bio inspired, modular, low-cost easy to use solar desalination system.
The project goal is to double the Mangrove Still’s current daily fresh water output of 3.9 litres per day. Planet will combine the grant with $90,000 in matching funds bringing the total project investment to $180,000. Planet Co-Founder and Principal Investigator Alessandro Villa said, “This funding will enable us to thoroughly test new materials and processes in a scientific environment allowing our team to work on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our solar desalination system”.

The technology has the potential to offer a financially viable and sustainable long-term solution to Oman’s farmers where water and soil quality is at risk from saline water intrusion. The Mangrove Still desalination system could become a low-cost substitute to energy intensive reverse osmosis desalination units. The technology could also be useful on a broader scale for governmental land regeneration or reforestation projects.


SolarDew, a Dutch company, has secured funding to research and demonstrate a low-cost membrane distillation desalination process to provide families and off-grid communities with an independent and sustainable source of high-quality drinking water. The system uses innovative manufacturing technologies from the packaging industry to create water purification bags directly integrating solar energy and water purification. This significantly reduces cost and complexity by eliminating electrical components, high pressure pumps and the need for consumables.

The system has the potential to double the production rate to 8 liters per square meter per day compared to existing solar stills. The development of the 5th generation multi-layer full-size bags will finalize the design, tooling, production settings and quality control protocols before demonstrating a WaterStation that can produce 120 liter per day. SolarDew’s objective is to produce desalinated water for less than USD 0.02 per liter and further decrease costs as they scaleup manufacturing.

Found Energy

Found Energy, a startup company in Cambridge, MA USA, has also secured funds for their early-stage research project. They are studying an innovative process using scrap aluminum-based fuel to extract energy by an oxidation reaction with water to power a desalination process. The chemical process produces clean hydrogen gas, heat, and an environmentally benign and valuable aluminum oxyhydroxide byproduct. The hydrogen gas is used in an internal combustion engine to power a thermo-mechanical desalination process. Using their system architecture, the waste heat from the oxidation and engine is recycled for maximizing efficiency.

The current design produces 150 liters per day of desalinated water and 1.5 kW of continuous electrical power using a modified generator. A prototype will be designed and evaluated with involvement of stakeholders in the Dominican Republic. The design tools developed during the research are expected to assist in the optimization of even smaller systems that could be transported by a single person.

MIT Global Engineering and Research Laboratory

The last project awarded was for a later stage research project. MIT’s Global Engineering and Research Laboratory in Cambridge, MA USA in collaboration with Eureka Forbes Ltd in India will be optimizing a point-of-use multi-stage electrodialysis system. This system will be a new competitor to commercially available low-recovery reverse osmosis purifiers in water-stressed lesser developed countries. One of the innovations is the creation of a smaller system using a single pump to drive both brine and diluate streams leading to significant cost reductions.

The research will also optimize the packaging, operation and maintenance, system recovery, and design for manufacturing and component selection. If intellectual property arises from this research, the plan is to transfer it to Eureka Forbes Ltd for commercial-scale production at the end of the project.