Dal is calling students and early‑career professionals to pitch ideas to improve the world

- May 23, 2024

Dr. Joseph Bedard took first place in the global Falling Walls finals in Berlin last fall. (Photo courtesy of Falling Walls)
Dr. Joseph Bedard took first place in the global Falling Walls finals in Berlin last fall. (Photo courtesy of Falling Walls)

Applications to compete in the annual Dalhousie-hosted Falling Walls Lab – Atlantic Canada pitch competition happening on Sept. 17 are now open. The event gives students and alumni the chance to make their case for an idea with the potential to create positive change in the world.  

Sign up by June 28 to compete.

The winner with the most compelling presentation will receive an expenses-paid trip to Berlin, Germany to compete in the global finals of the competition at the 2024 Falling Walls Science Summit on November 7. There, they will mingle with Nobel Laureates and other global thought leaders and attend an exclusive program, including networking dinners and expert-led workshops. The winner will also receive professional pitch training to ensure they are ready for the global stage. 

It’s about inspiration

Competitors have just three minutes to present a solution to a pressing global challenge. The pitch needs to pursuade a jury from academia, media and business that it offers a viable path to improve our world. 

"Your Falling Walls breakthrough could be a scientific discovery with the potential to decrease fossil fuel emissions, a policy solution to end homelessness, an innovation that improves health outcomes, a business idea that promotes social good as well as economic benefit — anything that has the potential to make our lives better,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, Dalhousie vice president research and innovation, whose office organizes the event. 

“But to impress our judges you’ll also need to communicate a clear vision and tangible evidence to support your ideas." 

Last year, then-Dalhousie PhD student Joseph Bedard did exactly that, moving on from Dal’s regional competition to take first place in the global finals at the 2023 Berlin Falling Walls Science Summit. The chemist, who has since completed his doctorate, was awarded the top honour for his presentation on how plastics can be manufactured from nitrogen in the air, negating the need for petrochemicals. 

Joe Bedard makes his winning pitch at the global Falling Walls Lab finals in Berlin

“I tried to leverage my strengths during the pitch: I’m quite passionate about this science, and I like to laugh and have fun, so l tried to let both aspects of myself shine through,” says Dr. Bedard. “Winning at this competition has given my research a kind of visibility that is unparalleled to anything I've experienced before. Some pretty serious people have been approaching me with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about this idea.”

Three minutes to change the world

Three minutes is all it takes. A Falling Walls Lab pitch is a brief, persuasive, and memorable speech that sparks the interest of the audience and takes them on a clear and logical journey. The jury uses three criteria to evaluate presentations: the breakthrough factor (how innovative is the proposed idea?), the relevance/impact (how relevant is the idea to the discipline and beyond?), and the performance (how convincing was the pitch?). 

“A tip that never fails? Focus on the solution, not on the problem,” says Lara Elena Kadegge, head of Falling Walls Lab in Berlin. 

Left: Lara Elena Kadegge, head of Falling Walls Lab

Kadegge also notes that the competition provides a perfect opportunity for researchers and young professionals to put their work into sharp focus and learn to articulate it to the world. Skills that come in handy, whether applying for scholarships and grants, or communicating ambitions to an employer. 

“Falling Walls Lab is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students and early-career professionals to share their research and ideas with the world,” she says. “By participating in one of the many international Labs worldwide, innovators not only develop their communication skills and drive their innovations, but also join the global Falling Walls Lab network of aspiring changemakers who want to break down walls in science and society. All while competing to win a ticket to the prestigious Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin.”


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