A source for closing gaps in water delivery, sanitation, and solid waste services

While we can be proud of the progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent decades in the coverage and quality of water, sanitation, and solid waste services, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda have set ambitious goals for our region that are still far from being realized.

  1. SDG Six seeks equitable and universal access to water and sanitation.
  2. SDG Eleven seeks to reduce the negative per capita environmental impact in cities, paying special attention to municipal waste management.
  3. SDG Twelve seeks to reduce waste generation, promoting prevention, reuse, and recycling.

Innovation is a powerful tool to address the challenges of the region's water and health crisis and it is the foundation of Source of Innovation, an initiative of IDB Lab, the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, and the IDB's Water and Sanitation Division. This is a proposal perfectly aligned with the Bank's new Vision 2025, which considers innovation and digitalization of the public sector fundamental to overcoming the great challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean today.

What is Source of Innovation looking for?

With the launch of this initiative, we hope to accelerate the development and integration of innovative and scalable solutions in the water, sanitation, and solid waste sector that result in safely managed services for all, with a special focus on poor and vulnerable populations. Specifically, the mechanism aims to boost the supply of innovation and the contact between enterprises, startups, and entrepreneurs, utilities, and investors by financing individual projects (with non-reimbursable and contingent recovery instruments).

We look for innovations that provide solutions such as: 

  1. How to improve access, equity, and efficiency of service provision through digitalization?
  2. How to improve the management of solid waste collection, recycling, and treatment in a sustainable way?
  3. How to implement more unconventional solutions to extend services at a reasonable cost and with greater ownership by the community?

What kind of innovations are you looking for?

We want to attract solutions based on:
(a) Technological innovation, including digital transformation, e.g. smart water infrastructures technologies, such as smart metering, automation, satellite leak detection; new emerging technologies to deliver services in hard-to-reach or water-scarce areas; smart solid waste collection and generation reduction; digitalization of services; including the use of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and other platforms.

(b) Innovative forms of financing, e.g. thematic green bonds; impact bonds; new financial products through traditional banking or microfinance; financial solutions for underserved or underserved populations; or new forms of payments and financing.

(c) Social innovations, public innovation and new forms of service provision, e.g. social enterprises as providers of services or solutions in water, sanitation, and solid waste management; new methods of urban planning and articulation; public-private partnerships; public procurement of innovation; processes of deep listening of communities such as design thinking, or new urban planning methodologies.

And how does the work of the IDB and IDB Lab complement each other?

The initiative contemplates working with service providers, regulatory issues, and organizational culture so that there is a greater appetite for the adoption of innovation in the sector, an effort led by the IDB. For its part, IDB Lab focuses on prototypes, spark, and ecosystem projects:

  1. Promoting innovative solutions with clear scalability and sustainability promoted by private sector actors;
  2. Strengthening national ecosystems and the regional innovation ecosystem for this sector

This is an initiative allows IDB Lab to exercise its role as a laboratory of innovative solutions that are scalable for the rest of the IDB Group, tackling a problem that affects millions of people in our region.

How can I participate in Source of Innovation?

Let us know if you have an innovative proposal aligned with the objective of the initiative to implement in any of the 26 member countries of the IDB Group, that:

  1. Has an impact on poor and vulnerable populations, and emerging economic units, including startups with innovative business models.
  2. Incorporates an innovative approach, whether it's a new technology, a new application of the technology, a new business model, or a new process to solve a major problem in the region, and the team identifies your competitive advantages.
  3. Provides a solution that presents a clear path to scale and attract more investors interested in joining forces to deploy resources.
  4. Has a model that makes sustainability possible once the project with the IDB Group is concluded.   
  5. Counts on counterpart resources to share the total costs of implementing your proposal.

The evaluation of the proposals will include other guiding principles such as knowledge generation, demonstration effect, and resource mobilization. All IDB Lab requirements for its projects can be found here.

The water and health crisis and how we deal with it will define our lives. We need different and, at the same time, better solutions. Source of Innovation is an effort to build alliances between all kinds of actors, public and private actors, operators and startups, communities, and research centers. That is why we call on all innovators and companies that want to make a difference to focus their solutions on the water, sanitation, and waste management sector. We are waiting for you!

To learn more about the initiative, you can email us at fuentedeinnovacion@iadb.org.