Manchester Prize selects Sapphire to help rivers sparkle

We’ve been chosen as one of ten finalists to receive the Manchester Prize for our AI-based tool called Sapphire, which will help improve river and bathing water quality. 

The Manchester prize is a new initiative run by the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology supporting cutting-edge AI-based solutions for public good. This round, which received almost 300 entries from UK-led teams, focused on the fields of energy, environment and infrastructure. 

As one of the finalists, we will receive £100,000 to develop our solution for the chance to win the £1 million grand prize in spring 2025. We’ll also be supported by a package of non-financial support, including up to £90,000 in spending on compute credits.

The state of health of the UK’s rivers and bathing waters has caused a public outcry, and the problem is only likely to grow owing to urbanisation and changes to rainfall patterns as a result of climate change. This will put more pressure on our drainage network. 

The aim of our tool is to help reduce water pollution from storm overflows, agriculture, and urban spaces. Sapphire will achieve this by integrating observed data and computer model outputs into an AI platform. The tool will produce faster results, and will incorporate more sources of pollution, than traditional methods.

Emma Brown, technical director at HR Wallingford said: “We believe that Sapphire could play an important role in improving water quality, drawing on our expertise and the advances in computer modelling and AI. We hope our tool will enable water companies to better understand the impact of their storm overflows and manage flows more effectively.”

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