the 10 categories and their respective selection criteria



Top-class researchers globally are pushing the boundaries to make some of the most important scientific breakthroughs of our time. 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)


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:

We are looking for individual scientists as well as research groups of outstanding quality who:

  •  have made excellent, ground-breaking, recent achievements in their respective fields, nationally and internationally, and who stand out for their innovative strength;
  • 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 humanity, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • translate scientific topics and their complexities in a way that makes them accessible and attractive to large sections of society.


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


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 meet requirements of (emerging) evidence for impact and scalability.
  • Proposals can provide evidence for high degrees of accessibility and sustainability.


Excellent science and innovation management are the processes, structures, and actors that enable groundbreaking innovations within and beyond the field of science. Within this category, breakthroughs represent significant advances, developments, achievements or an increase in (scientific) knowledge that remove barriers to progress in the applicant’s respective fields. We are looking for novel and game changing approaches (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.



In a time when effective science communication has become all the more paramount, Falling Walls Lab is searching for the next generation of students and early-career professionals from all disciplines to promote their exceptional ideas that create a positive impact on science and society.

Selection Criteria:

  • Nominees must be 18 years or older. There is no upper age limit.
  • Nominees must be current university students or recent graduates with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree/MD or PhD/
  • Nominations can be submitted from all disciplines.
  • Previous Falling Walls Lab participants are ineligible.
  • Nominees should be able to demonstrate a breakthrough in their field (i.e. an idea, research project, business model or social initiative that is original, innovative, and relevant to the problems facing the world today). The jury appreciates authentic presenters with a clear vision and proof of concept.
  • For more information, please visit the eligibility criteria page.

Nominees for the Emerging Talents category will be invited to apply to one of the international Falling Walls Labs. If selected, they will be given the opportunity to present their breakthrough idea on an international Falling Walls Lab stage. The winners of these Labs qualify for the global finale in Berlin, which takes place in November as part of the Falling Walls Science Summit.

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 start-ups based on scientific research.
  • Open to start-ups from 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 (i.e. founded on or after 1 January 2017).
  • 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:

  • Impact 40%
    Initiatives with measurable outcomes and long-term impact on their target group
  • Approach 25%
    Participatory formats of all levels: from public panels to arts-driven or entertaining approaches, or co-productive research.
  • Transferability 25%
    Exemplary initiatives from all over the world with a transferable and/or scalable approach that generates mutual learning and mutual benefits for science and their target group.
  • Overall impression 10%
    Structure and quality of application.
    On 7 Nov: Structure and quality of pitch presentation on stage.

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