“Meet the brightest minds on the planet” – is how BBC London described the Falling Walls Conference. Each year on November 9th, an audience of 700 international decision makers in politics, business, science, media and culture from more than 80 nations gathers in Berlin to discover which walls will fall next in science and society.
In addition to the main conference, the Falling Walls Lab offers a great opportunity to young researchers, entrepreneurs and scholars to present their outstanding ideas, research projects and initiatives in just three minutes to an expert jury panel and 100 peers.
Applications for an international Lab or for the Finale in Berlin can be submitted online at http://www.falling-walls.com/lab/apply until September 15th 2015.
In the run up to this years event, we had the chance to speak with Prateep Beed, who has participated in the lab twice. He is co-founder of the not-for-profit Think Tank, Biomimicry Germany and here he tells about his personal Lab experience, how his participation in the Lab has influenced his work and career and why he recommends young researchers to apply for the Falling Walls Lab.
You are the co-founder of a not-for-profit organization called Biomimicry that is based in Berlin. What does Biomimicry stand for?
Biomimicry is a young but emerging field which inspires cross-disciplinary experts, tech entrepreneurs and designers to learn from nature. From the tensile strength of spider webs, structural non-toxic colours of a butterfly wing to smart biomaterials like hemp and bamboo – nature has optimized and benchmarked several clever strategies over years of evolution. Biomimicry is the scientific design discipline of studying and emulating nature’s effective design strategies to drive product and systems innovation.
At Biomimicry Germany, a Berlin-based organization for nature-inspired innovations, we spear-head a new systematic way of capturing nature’s creativity and introduce it in service, architecture, technology, and business innovations alike. Using Biomimicry as an innovation tool to create tangible designs and products we align our solutions to nature’s best design strategies thereby incorporating sustainability in our innovations with minimal-to-zero negative impact on the environment.
For our work in the field of education and developing sustainable solutions for societal problems we received the Deutschland Land der Ideen prize in 2014 and Werkstatt N – Nachhaltiges Rat prize in 2015.
Two times – in 2012 and in 2013 – you have been already selected as one of 100 finalists at the Falling Walls Lab in Berlin, an international platform for young researchers and innovators. At the Lab 2013 you presented the work of Biomimicry. Can you tell us a little bit more about your 3-minute presentation and what the atmosphere was like?
Due to my background in engineering and biology, I was always fascinated how biological systems compute. Presenting an idea in 3 minutes is a challenge – more so when it is about a methodology rather than a product. However, since there are several convincingly intuitive examples in nature made my task at hand easier. A tree is till date the best example of how single elements (leaves) can be arranged on a structure to optimize the usage of sunlight. Using this as an inspiration, I introduced the methodology of Biomimicry where biology informs technology for optimizing our designs. In nature, ‘form follows function’ and if we ask the right questions, then at every design table, a biologist can provide key insights as to how nature.
The Falling Walls Lab provides a great atmosphere for a field like Biomimicry. During the coffee-breaks, a lot of people walked up to me and said ‘hey, as a child I was fascinated by …’. These were the best feedback I got for my talk – yes we all have an equal access to nature and its time we unlock our creativity. Sometimes it is beneficial to see the world as a 6-year old and to ask questions differently.
What was your personal Lab experience? How did your participation in the Lab influence your work and career?
Somewhere in the audience was the architect Max Schwitalla who was invited to attend the Falling Walls Lab. He dropped me an email a couple of days later expressing his interest and fascination about Biomimicry. The talk was a catalyst for a project that followed. With the studio Schwitalla, Schindler AG and Biomimicry Germany we took part in the AUDI Urban Future Award 2014 looking at the future of mobility. We, the Berlin team in this competition was given a specific mobility challenge – how to blur the boundaries between private and public mobility. Using inspiration from nature and algorithms for destination control we proposed a mobility concept that would reduce commuting times between destinations in an urban landscape. By hi-jacking the existing infrastructure we integrate automated-driving on a test-track in Berlin. This not only frees-up existing and valuable urban space but also optimizes efficient use of transportation, challenges the typology of a car and addresses the changing attitude of users from that of a ‘car-owning’ to a ‘car-sharing’ one.
Why would you recommend young researchers to apply for the Falling Walls Lab? How is this competition different from other science slams or events?
The Falling Walls Lab is unique in a way that it attracts researchers and innovators from multiple and varied disciplines – from astrophysics to cancer biology, from sustainable farming to artificial intelligence. This broad span of enthusiastic researchers creates a stimulating environment making room for great discussions. Ideas are appreciated, debated and new ideas are born. This is what makes the Falling Walls Lab unique. An added plus is the Falling Walls Conference the following day which gathers eminent scientists to inspire the younger generation. At the Falling Walls Lab everyone’s a winner, everyone sets a spark, everyone goes home richer by knowing 99 other bright minds. This is a unique opportunity.