July 30, 2019

Falling Walls Lab set to kick off second annual competition

Are you an innovator or creative thinker? Deadline Aug. 23 to apply to Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking
Spectators cheer at Falling Walls competition
Spectators cheer at Falling Walls competition

Sept. 21, 2019 marks the second annual Falling Walls Lab Competition, presented by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary. Originating in Berlin, the Falling Walls event is an international forum for the next generation of outstanding innovators and creative thinkers. Its aim is to promote exceptional ideas and to connect promising scientists and entrepreneurs from all fields, on a global level.

The Falling Walls event consists of four different components:

  • Falling Walls Venture: An international platform showcasing the most promising research based startups from all over the globe
  • Falling Walls Engage: connects those who tear down the walls between science and the public
  • Falling Walls Circle: An exclusive global platform for science strategists and visionaries
  • Falling Walls Lab, a pitch competition on research work and business model, with competitors from each local Lab location.

Finalists in the local Falling Walls Lab at UCalgary are awarded the life-changing opportunity of a trip to Berlin for the global pitch competition, meeting competitors, mentors, and industry from around the world.

Falling Walls Science Startup of the Year

Venture stream finalists gather onstage at Falling Walls in Berlin.

Photos courtesy Falling Walls

Why join Falling Walls?

“It is critical to think globally when developing a strategy for business; thinking in silos is restrictive, when investors could be anywhere,” says Dr. Pierre Wijdenes, PhD, a 2018 UCalgary competitor at Falling Walls Venture in Berlin. “Winning the chance to attend the Berlin conference was invaluable in terms of the people we met and having the chance to explore the European innovation ecosystem.”

Wijdenes and business partner Dr. Colin Dalton, PhD, founded Neuraura, a brain monitoring system that provides precise electrophysiological data and an easy-to-use brain monitoring platform which will significantly improve the decision-making process for neurosurgeons when treating patients with epilepsy. Together with Claire Dixon, chief operating officer, the team at Neuraura capitalized on the opportunities presented by Falling Walls.

“We would thoroughly recommend applying to present at Falling Walls, to any deep tech venture that is looking to have massive societal as well as commercial impact,” says Dixon.

Competing in the Venture stream presents opportunities for companies who have been incorporated for five years or less and are nearing the commercialization stage of their development. The Lab stream of the competition, which is presented by UCalgary, allows for those ideas at ideation and research phase to compete for similar supports.

Dr. Joseph Wang, PhD, won last year’s Falling Walls Lab with his innovation, the SIMBA capsule. The SIMBA capsule is a device a patient can ingest in order to collect samples from the small intestine, an organ deep inside the GI tract which is very difficult to access even using endoscopy. SIMBA’s tech can be used to diagnose a variety of digestive disorders and challenges.

Wang learned much about pitching at the Falling Walls event. “My background is in engineering research and I am accustomed to pitching to an audience with the same background,” says Wang, “I learned a lot at Falling Walls about pitching a scientific idea to a business audience, and how different this experience is from what I was used to.”

Wang appreciated the global nature of the event. Meeting and networking with other engineers, physicians, and research scientists from across the world broadened his view of how people are working to change the world on a global scale.

“A major focus for the Hunter Hub is to give all our students and startups in Calgary, opportunities to compete on the global stage,” says Joelle Foster, Hunter Hub executive director. “We are no longer constrained by geography. We must consider globalization as a realistic opportunity.”

Making the pitch at Falling Walls

Colin Dalton of Neuraura pitching to the panel of judges in Berlin.

Where are they now?

In the year since Falling Walls, Neuraura has successfully achieved over $2 million in funding through a combination of grants-in-aid, angel investment, and pitch competition success. They have also formalized a collaboration with the Alfred E. Mann Foundation for regulatory and technical support.

Some other highlights include:

The SIMBA capsule has had an equally exciting year, joining the Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies (CDL) program at the University of Calgary to grow the business. Dr. Wang has incorporated the company, and is in the process of fundraising for the first seed round towards commercialization. The money will be used to implement prototypes, conducting clinical trials in North America and to develop the business model.

How to join Falling Walls

If you are interested in participating in the 2019 Falling Walls Lab pitch competition, please review the application here. The deadline for application is Aug. 23, 2019. The competition is open to University of Calgary undergraduate, graduate, and post-doc students in any faculty across campus. This competition is also open to alumni and local community members. 

Any inquiries or comments can be directed to the Hunter Hub at hunterhub@ucalgary.ca