Nov. 5, 2018

Two innovation teams headed to Berlin for culmination of international competition Nov. 8-9

Winners chosen at inaugural Falling Walls competition brought to campus by Hunter Hub

Two University of Calgary researchers are headed to Berlin to compete in the international Falling Walls Conference Nov. 8 and 9. Falling Walls is an international forum to showcase the next generation of outstanding innovators and creative thinkers.

Dr. Joseph Wang, PhD, and Dr. Colin Dalton, PhD, successfully pitched their ideas at the inaugural Falling Walls UCalgary competition, hosted in September by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. Calgary was one of seven hosts across North America and one of just two in Canada.

Two streams of competition

The Falling Walls competition is divided into two streams: Venture and Lab. The Lab stream is geared toward competition in concept stage pitches, with participants vetted and a winner chosen by a panel. The Venture stream is comprised of companies that are prototyped and ready for commercialization. The organizing committee for the Falling Walls Conference selects Venture participants in advance of the global competition.

  • Above: Nimble and Neuraura, respectively, won the Lab and Venture streams at the UCalgary Falling Walls competition. They are off to Berlin for the international competition.

After the initial selection processes, participants train and compete over three weeks. Participants are given webinar pitch training and presentation tips, this year facilitated by Dr. Lian Willetts, PhD, and Craig Elias, entrepreneur in residence for Bow Valley College. Following the training and tips sessions, participants interview with a panel and pitch their idea. A committee decides which teams go through to the semi-finals, at which point a winner is selected.

Nimble wins Lab stream

The winner of the 2018 Falling Walls UCalgary Lab stream is Dr. Wang with his innovation, Nimble. Wang is a postdoctoral fellow, having graduated from the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Graduate Program at the university. Nimble is a non-invasive small intestine sampling device taken orally and retrieved for data post-digestion. As the Falling Walls UCalgary Lab winner, Wang will represent the university and compete in the Lab stream in Berlin.

“I can’t say enough positive things about the inaugural Falling Walls Lab pitching competition here at the University of Calgary,” says Wang. “The committee provided a platform and community for our students, postdocs, and alumni to make their innovative ideas heard. The coaches at the Falling Walls Lab are very encouraging, helpful, and offered me many suggestions to improve my pitch.

“Winning this year's pitch competition gave our startup a chance to represent the growing entrepreneurship environment at the University of Calgary and pitch our idea in front of a big international audience in Berlin.”

Joelle Foster, left, executive director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, speaks with Falling Walls competitors.

Joelle Foster, left, executive director of the Hunter Hub, speaks with Falling Walls competitors.

Hunter Hub

Neuraura chosen for Venture stream

The University of Calgary is also recognized in the Venture stream, for the development of Neuraura. Neuraura is a novel wireless brain monitoring device. Developed by Dr. Colin Dalton, PhD, assistant professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Bioengineering Program, and Dr. Pierre Wijdenes, PhD, also a graduate of the BME program, Neuraura remotely connects to monitoring brain activity. Neuraura, the ‘pacemaker for the brain,’ was selected as one of 20 ventures worldwide, to compete in the Venture stream of the Falling Walls competition in Berlin. With a $20-billion potential untapped market, Neuraura stands to create a definitive impact.

"It is a true honour to have been nominated to represent the University of Calgary, Alberta, and Canada at the Falling Walls competition in Berlin,” says Wijdenes. “This would not have been possible without the amazing support from our community. We just can't wait to tell the Falling Walls audience about the impactful neuro-technology being developed in Alberta's backyard."

Dr. Dalton, who is also director of the Microsystems Hub in the Schulich School of Engineering, will be pitching on behalf of Neuraura in Berlin.

Competition to be live-streamed Nov. 8

“These are examples of research that will have a massive impact beyond the lab. It will change people’s lives,” says Joelle Foster, executive director for the Hunter Hub. “We want to encourage and foster more students and researchers to move ahead with their ideas.”

Neuraura and Nimble will represent the University of Calgary on a global innovation platform in Berlin on Nov. 8 and 9. The competition will be live-streamed in the Hunter Hub (MSC 171) on Nov. 8 at 8:15 a.m.  A link will be also available at Falling Walls Livestream. This link will be available post event, as well for anyone wishing to watch all or portions of the conference.

Starting in January 2019, the Hunter Hub will be preparing for the 2019 Falling Walls competition. Details and updates regarding the upcoming competition can also be found on the Hunter Hub website.

Hosted by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, the Calgary Falling Walls competition is a component of the larger, international Falling Walls Conference, which comprises more than 40 institutions worldwide. Each of these 40 locations hosts a local Falling Walls competition, with the winners of each of these local competitions moving on to compete at the global level in Berlin, Germany in November.