The Falling Walls Young Innovators of the Year 2016: Biofuel from coffee grounds, nanoparticles modified through biocomputing and diesel made from plastic waste were the winning ideas at this year’s Falling Walls Lab Finale


Berlin, 9 November 2016. One hundred participants from more than fifty nations had only three minutes to present their research projects, ideas and initiatives before an international audience at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin yesterday. The following three finalists were able to convince the interdisciplinary jury and the audience and were chosen as the ‘Falling Walls Young Innovators 2016’:

The jury’s favourite and winner of the Falling Walls Lab 2016 was Dang Huyen Chau from Technische Universität Dresden. She won over the jury with her idea of recycling oil-rich coffee grounds as a biofuel.

The second prize went to Maxim Nikitin of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He presented biocomputing nanoparticles which can autonomously analyse data and draw different therapeutic and diagnostic conclusions from them and, using that information, individually adapt the drug delivery to each patient.

Third place went to Nouf AlJabri from Saudi Arabia. She is working at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology on a method by which plastic can be converted into a fuel that produces fewer greenhouse gases. This is achieved by means of multi-metallic catalysts with improved reactivity and selectivity.

The audience’s choice was Chiedza Kambasha from Zimbabwe, who amazed the crowd with her presentation of a 3D bioprinter which can produce smaller organs such as bladders, kidneys and skin grafts.

The winners were selected by a high-calibre jury drawn from science and industry led by Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Nobel Foundation, and Gary Singer, Partner, Chief Marketing Officer, Global, A.T. Kearney. ‘We have seen so many outstanding and innovative ideas at today’s Falling Walls Lab that it was incredibly difficult for the jury to select the winners. We were persuaded by Dang Huyen Chau’s idea because of its great practical potential. Coffee waste contains valuable material that can be recycled very simply and easily,’ said Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, explaining the jury’s decision.

This morning, the three winners of the Falling Walls Lab Finale will have the chance to present their ideas once again at the international Falling Walls Conference in front of around 700 guests.

More than 2,400 applications from all over the world were submitted to participate in Falling Walls Labs this year, with new initiatives and research projects from the humanities, social sciences, engineering, business and natural sciences. ‘We are thrilled by the quality of ideas at the Falling Walls Lab and the passion that their proponents have for solving the world’s most perplexing problems. We are certain that many of the scientists and projects showcased here have the potential to change our world,’ says Gary Singer, Chief Marketing Officer at A.T. Kearney, Founding Partner of the Falling Walls Lab.

Before the Finale in Berlin, 49 international qualifying rounds were held in 44 countries this year, including at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) and Chimie ParisTech (France). All their winners travelled to Berlin for the Finale. The participation of more than 20 aspiring scientists was for example sponsored by the DAAD in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office, they were preliminarily selected in qualifying rounds at 14 international offices of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and five German Houses of Research and Innovation. ‘As a global partner of Falling Walls Lab, we are excited about the ever-growing number of international Falling Walls Labs. It’s great to see how this idea is spreading all over the world and how a growing global network is developing out of it,’ says Prof. Peter Hofmann, Senior Vice President Global Product Development, Festo.


About Falling Walls Lab

The aim of the Falling Walls Lab is to promote scientific and entrepreneurial vision and to initiate and promote exchanges between young scientists and young professionals across disciplines. The Falling Walls Lab is organised by the Falling Walls Foundation, with the support of the international management consultancy firm A.T. Kearney (Founding Partner) and Festo AG & Co KG (Global Partner).

Press photos from the Lab are available at


The winners of the Falling Walls Lab 2016 at a glance

1st prize (€1000): Dang Huyen Chau, Technische Universität Dresden:
Breaking the Wall of Reused Coffee Grounds for Fuel Logs

2nd prize (€750): Maxim Nikitin, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology:
Breaking the Wall of Biomedical Nanorobots

3rd prize (€500): Nouf AlJabri, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology:
Breaking the Wall of Clean Energy by Plastic Waste


Press contact

Lucie Menz
Press and Communication
Falling Walls Foundation gGmbH
Chausseestraße 8e
D-10115 Berlin

Phone: +49 30 609 88 39 74

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