Nottingham Engineering Graduate is Finalist in National Business Innovation Competition

Back to News

On 28 October 2019 engineering students, graduates and postgraduates will compete for a prestigious Engineers in Business Competition award and a share of a £10,000 prize pot. 

Ten teams from UK universities have been short-listed to pitch their business innovations at the Champion of Champions Grand Final at the Royal Academy of Engineering – the awards ceremony will be attended by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the patron of the Engineers in Business Competition (EIBC).

Tabitha Wacera, an MSc Sustainable Energy Engineering graduate from the University of Nottingham is aiming to transform the lives of people with restricted access to fresh water. Tabitha has created her business, Sustainable Water, which aims to deploy affordable solar water pumps in developing countries.

Tabitha explains her passion for tackling water shortage in developing countries:

“When you see water campaigns, they always feature a girl or woman who is walking a very long distance in search of water. Often at the expense of her education or future. That girl is me – this is my story.

“I too have carried more than 120 litres of water on my back in a day. This constituted six trips carrying 20 litres of water in a yellow jerry can over 1.5km per trip. When the drought persisted, I had to fetch water for two hours after school before doing my homework.

“Luckily, I had a mother who valued education. She did not let me choose between education and school. 15 years later, it is unsurprising that my Masters thesis was: affordable solar water pumps. If I don’t, who will?

“Water is the root cause of most symptomatic problems such as hunger or lack of education and over 1 billion people do not have access to it. Unsustainable water solutions break down after 1-2 years. By using the bottom up approach, we ensure our solution is customised to the consumers’ needs not a gap in the market.

“We believe we can solve the water crisis once and for all if we do it such that the problem does not recur. We have designed a low-cost solar water pump that can be deployed for water supply and irrigation in developing countries coupled with a PAYG payment plan. With remote monitoring, performance and functionality is ensured over the pump’s lifetime.”

The Engineers in Business Competition inspires engineers to gain business skills through their university enterprise competitions. They then harness their combined engineering and business skills to create innovations that can change people’s lives and improve the lived environment.


Tabitha was a prize winner in her university heat of the Engineers in Business Competition receiving £500 to assist with the development of Sustainable Water. She then entered the Engineers in Business Grand Final and won a place in the Champion of Champions Final, where she will be up against other engineers with equally forward-thinking ideas. Will Tabitha walk away with the Gold for her exciting idea to tackle the water crisis in developing countries?

Commenting on the why engineers need to learn business skills Tabitha said: “Engineers are born problem solvers, or they are given the skills to solve problems. Business is another mechanism of solving problems on a larger and commercial scale. Most engineers get stuck creating awesome solutions that never see the light of day because they cannot figure out how to commercialise their ideas. By combining both business innovation with technical skills, design becomes human-centred design instead of insular designs that have no input from the people whose problem we are trying to solve. More problems can be solved if more solutions are combined with business.”

The Dragons’ Den Style competition will see each pitch team present and answer questions from the judges who are:

  • Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Tim Chapman, Director, Arup – Infrastructure
  • Andrew Doe, a Sainsbury Management Fellow, serial entrepreneur, a highly experienced e-commerce and digital leader and a non-exec director
  • Kate Beresford, Head of Membership and Operation, Enterprise Educators UK

The judges are looking:

  • Originality and viability of the idea
  • How the idea helps to solve a real problem in society
  • The benefits to the target audience/customer

In addition to the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards, there will be two other exciting prizes:

  •  Lord Sainsbury Prize – Lord Sainsbury will award this prize to the team he believes has created a business idea that will have a big impact in society
  • People’s Prize – the winner of this prize will be determined by the number of public votes based on the finalists’ videos which can be viewed on this website

The Engineers in Business Competition supports and promotes the idea of a combined engineering and business education. In a world that is moving and developing so rapidly, these skills are vital in order to tackle challenging global problems and to make lasting positive changes to the way we live.

For further information on Sustainable Water, contact Althea Taylor-Salmon at