Publish Date: 26.09.2016

Category: News from the University

Today, for the second year in a row, the University of Ljubljana held the international event Falling Walls Lab Ljubljana, at which innovators of all ages presented their breakthrough ideas. A distinguished panel of representatives from various scientific fields and the wider economy selected the three best ideas – and the winning one – from among eight that made it to the final. Nejc Hodnik will present his winning breakthrough idea entitled “Breaking the Wall of Hazardous Noble Metal Recycling”, a solution for the hazardous recycling of precious metals, at the Falling Walls Lab in Berlin. 

The international Falling Walls Lab 2016 event was hosted and organised in Slovenia by the University of Ljubljana for the second year in a row. This interdisciplinary event offers students, researchers, experts and entrepreneurs an opportunity to present a breakthrough idea, research work, an innovative project or a business model. Today’s event was opened by the University Rector Prof. Dr. Ivan Svetlik who emphasised that the role of universities was to keep such ideas and create possibilities for their further development. “Falling Walls Lab enables young researchers to present even the wildest of ideas. All are welcome and it seems right that they be given an opportunity for presentation. That is vital.”

Falling Walls Lab is a cooperation project involving the Falling Walls Foundation, the global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney (founding member) and the company Festo, a global supplier of pneumatic and electric technology for automation (a global partner). “Festo believes that it is knowledge in combination with guts that is the value allowing us a carefree glimpse into the future. Challenges drive new ideas and ideas drive development. Many young entrepreneurs have all the necessary attributes: knowledge, courage and ideas. Festo is proud to meet them and cooperate with them in projects and events, such as the Falling Walls Lab,” said Andrej Čebular, representative of Festo.

Presentations of breakthrough ideas at the Falling Walls Lab 2016 competition were assessed by a 5-member panel of representatives from various scientific fields and the wider economy. The candidates’ ideas were assessed based on the criteria of penetrability, relevancy or impact, and presentation.

“Large enterprises worldwide have recognised the importance of start-up companies and have reserved or increased funds intended for investments in start-up companies. The latest research conducted by A.T. Kearney and IMP³rove Academy, which included over a hundred leading international organisations from across the world, revealed that more than two thirds of the companies would include start-up companies in their innovation eco-systems,” said panel member Ana Petrić of A.T. Kearney. She also stressed the mutual benefits, stating that young people have innovative ideas, while international companies have the necessary financial means and experiences to develop them successfully. This global trend has been steadily entering the region. Business incubators and accelerators have become important places where young entrepreneurs are able to grow and develop their ideas with suitable financial support and mentorship. “The number of young competent entrepreneurs has been growing from year to year. The thing they all share is passion for ideas. That is also one of the reasons we are happy to participate in such events that support and promote young entrepreneurs,” she added.

The panel selected the best three ideas – as well as the winning one – from the eight that made it to the final. Third place was taken by Polona Pečlin with her idea “Breaking the Wall of Neuromodulation”, featuring an innovative approach in neuromodulation; second place was awarded to Matija Gatalo and his “Breaking the Wall of Modelling with Conductive Substances”, which breaks walls in the commercialisation of fuel cells; and the top spot was taken by Nejc Hodnik and his breakthrough idea entitled “Breaking the Wall of Data  of Hazardous Noble Metal Recycling", offering a solution for the hazardous recycling of precious metals. The winner will attend the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin, which will take place on 8 and 9 November 2016. The authors of the best three ideas also received cash prizes.

“Ideas require different stages of development. The Rector’s Top Innovation Award presented this March features ideas that have already made it to the market or are just about to go on the market, while the ideas presented today are still in the infancy stage. Importantly, these are ideas that provide solutions to certain problems within their environments and are in this respect attractive for the market. As seen, young people have indeed an excellent insight into what the world needs, which is why they have to be given support and assistance in the development of their ideas and entry on the market. As the largest educational institution in Slovenia, we participate in the organisation of such events on national and global levels,” concluded the Vice-Rector of the University of Ljubljana for Knowledge Transfer Prof. Dr. Tanja Mihalič.


The photos below were taken by Željko Stevanić, IFP d.o.o.