the 10 categories and their respective selection criteria


Categories 1-4:

Top-class researchers globally are pushing the boundaries to make some of the most important scientific breakthroughs of our times. In categories 1-4, we are looking for internationally recognised, established academics and leaders in their respective fields (as outlined below), whose groundbreaking work contributes towards solving the world’s biggest challenges.

Category 1: Life Sciences
The scientific study of life and organisms (e.g. biology, neuroscience, zoology)

Category 2: Physical Sciences
The observation and understanding of natural phenomena of the earth, atmosphere and space (e.g. chemistry, physics, astronomy)

Category 3: Engineering and Technology
The practical application of science and mathematics to every-day life (e.g. artificial intelligence, information technology, mechanical engineering)

Category 4: Social Sciences and Humanities
The institutions and functioning of human society and the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society, (e.g. politics, economics, philosophy)

Selection Criteria:

  • The title of ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ can be awarded to individual scientists as well as research groups in all scientific fields
  • Researchers of outstanding quality will be selected who have made excellent, ground-breaking, recent achievements in their respective fields, nationally and internationally, and who stand out for their innovative strength
  • Scientists who promise to have a significant long-term impact on the research landscape and to contribute towards solving global challenges, such as having a positive effect on nature and mankind, in line with the SDGs
  • Researchers who translate scientific topics and their complexities in a way that makes them accessible and attractive to large sections of society
  • Nominations will be considered and evaluated within the relevant categories, but their potential for interdisciplinary problem-solving will also be assessed


Category 5: Art and science
We welcome nominations for/from artists whose work is inspired and influenced by science across a wide range of subjects (from the humanities to life sciences, technology and more), which sheds light on societal issues, natural phenomena or simply the wonder of scientific discoveries, and which highlights the unique relationship between these apparently opposite but often highly complementary disciplines.

Selection Criteria:

  • International contemporary artists, collectives and projects that reflect, present, convey or process current phenomena, developments and discoveries in all scientific disciplines, or which present them in artistic forms
  • Artists and works that address global social challenges via scientific references, methods or practices
  • Artists and works that set new standards in the intersection of art and science and stand out artistically as well as methodologically


Category 6: Future Learning
Innovations in learning have become increasingly relevant in the last ten years – and the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated this development. We are looking for innovative initiatives, that significantly improve learners’ lives through their exceptional concepts and practices. In particular, we are welcoming submissions that redefine the way we learn and educate, that can show off a high impact with their respective target groups, are scalable and replicable, and offer a high degree of accessibility.

Selection Criteria:

  • Proposals showcase novel concepts, best-practices, or technologies that contribute towards a better future for learners and educators.
  • Proposals can explain how they are a meaningful improvement, modification, augmentation or substitution of /in parts of a learning ecosystem.
  • Proposals meet requirements of (emerging) evidence for impact and scalability. The idea must have at least one year of being implemented with its intended users.


Category 7: Science and Innovation Management
Excellent science and innovation management is as essential as scientific curiosity and creativity for breakthroughs in science and technology. We are looking for novel and game changing approaches to science and innovation management (concepts, tools, structures, projects.) both in the realms of academia and research-driven companies, but particularly at the interface between the two.

Selection Criteria:

  • Proposals highlight how successful science and innovation management can serve as a basis for breakthroughs in science and corporate research.
  • Proposals can demonstrate high-impact research findings and/or increased performance as a direct result of efforts to maintaining, improving, or expanding the ability to innovate.
  • Proposals meet requirements of (emerging) evidence for impact and scalability. The idea must have at least one year of being implemented with its intended users.


Category 8: Emerging Talents (Falling Walls Lab)
In a time when effective science communication has become all the more paramount, Falling Walls Lab is searching for the next generation of early-career innovators, trailblazers, creators, and visionaries of all disciplines to promote their exceptional ideas that create a positive impact on science and society.

Selection Criteria:

  • Applications are open to international early-career scientists and innovators from all disciplines.
  • We invite demonstrated new solutions, research projects or initiatives.
  • Participants are enrolled at a university, as a student (BA, MA), doctoral student or Postdoc, or in equivalent forms.
  • The selection focuses on the extent to which ideas or works presented integrate outstanding new developments, excellent scientific work, originality and communication skills.

Nominees for the Emerging Talents Category will be invited to apply to one of the international Labs. If selected, they will have the chance to present their breakthrough in a 3 minute pitch. 


Category 9: Science Start-ups (Falling Walls Venture)
Solving some of today’s most pressing challenges requires scientific findings to be turned into entrepreneurial solutions. We are looking for innovative start-ups that have translated breakthrough scientific thinking into promising business models.

Selection Criteria:

  • Open to entrepreneurs and scientists whose start-ups are based on scientific research.
  • Applications are open to all scientific disciplines.
  • Each start-up must be endorsed by a nominating institution. This can be a university or a research institution.
  • The company must be founded by the time of nomination and cannot be older than 5 years
  • Start-ups should at least have a protoype/proof of concept and should already have received some funding


Category 10: Science Engagement (Falling Walls Engage)
We are searching for all forms of participatory Science Engagement initiatives that generate mutual learning between, and mutual benefits for, science and society.

Selection Criteria:

  • Participatory and interactive formats of all kinds: from co-productive research over public panels towards arts-driven or entertaining approaches.
  • Projects of all sizes: from grassroots to institutionalised projects – the common ground is the impact of your initiative.
  • Exemplary initiatives from all over the world with a transferable and/or scalable approach that generates mutual learning and benefits for both sides, science and the public.
  • Initiatives with measurable outcomes and long-term impact on their target group.

More Pages