Berlin, 02. November 2020. This year, the Falling Walls Conference, took their search for the scientific breakthroughs of the year, completely online. In an international open call, leading research institutions around the world were asked to nominate their scientific breakthroughs in ten different categories. 900 nominations were made from 111 countries, of these, 600 finalists were chosen to present their ground-breaking research in a 5-minute video, all of which have been made freely accessible in our media library.
As part of the Berlin Science Week, this year’s digital programme will present 100 winner research projects, selected by distinguished world-class jurieschaired by Helga Nowotny, fmr. President of the European Research Council, in ten dedicated ‘Winners Sessions’. From 4 to 8 November the ten winners of the respective categories will present their research projects in each of two live-streamed sessions from 13.15–14.15 and from 14.15–15.15 CET, followed by individual Q&A sessions.
On 9 November, the day that marks the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ten Falling Walls Breakthroughs of the Year will be announced and presented to an international audience at the Grand Finaleat 13.00–15.00 CET.
These breakthroughs represent significant advances, developments, achievements or an increase in (scientific) knowledge that remove barriers to progress in the nominees’ respective fields. The presented research achievements and scientific projects include ground-breaking, innovative ideas or represent a significant paradigm shift. They promise to have an impact on society worldwide and contribute towards solving some of our biggest challenges.
Today we announce the ten winners of the first seven categories including Life Sciences; Physical Sciences; Engineering and Technology; Social Sciences and the Humanities; Science in the Arts; Digital Education; and Science and Innovation Management.
Winners Session – 4 November, 13.15–14.15 CET
STEFAN DÜBEL – TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF BRAUNSCHWEIG
Breaking the Wall to Corona Antibodies
Stefan Dübel generates natural human antibodies that completely block COVID-19.
ERAN ELINAV – THE WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Breaking the Wall of the Gut-Brain Connection in ALS
Eran Elinav focsses on decoding host-microbiome interactions and their effects on health and disease.
XIANG-DONG FU – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO (UCSD)
Breaking the Wall to Replenish Lost Neurons
Xiang-Dong Fu has developed a new strategy to convert astrocytes into functional neurons, and thereby rebuild lost neural circuits.
CHRISTIAN HACKENBERGER – LEIBNIZ-FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT FÜR MOLEKULARE PHARMAKOLOGIE (FMP)
Breaking the Wall to Next Generation Biopharmaceuticals
Christian Hackenberger contributes to the development of protein-based therapeutics to target cancer and viral infections.
MICHELLE MONJE – STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Brain Cancer
Michelle Monje works at the intersection of neuroscience and brain cancer biology.
SERGIU PASCA – STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Neuropsychiatric Disease
Sergiu Pasca’s team grows human brain organoids and assembloids from stem cells to learn about development and disease mechanisms.
HOLGER PUCHTA – KARLSRUHE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (KIT)
Breaking the Wall to Sustainable Agriculture
Holger Puchta uses CRISPR/Cas technology towards a more sustainable agriculture.
STEPHAN SIEBER – TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH
Breaking the Wall to Next Generation Antibiotics
Stephan Sieber discovers a new type of antibiotic overcoming several previous limitations.
GIOVANNI TRAVERSO – MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)
Breaking the Wall of Drug Delivery and Nutrient Absorption
Giovanni Traverso has developed a transformative technology to improve drug delivery and nutrient absorption.
HAITAO YANG – SHANGHAI TECH UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall to COVID-19 Inhibitors
Haitao Yang has worked to combine structure-assisted drug design and virtual drug screening to help identify new drugs to combat COVID-19.
SOCIAL SCIENCES AND THE HUMANITIES
Winners Session – 5 November, 13.15–14.15 CET
ANNE VAN AAKEN – UNIVERSITÄT HAMBURG
Breaking The Wall to International Cooperation
Anne van Aaken looks at new ways of thinking about international law to improve global cooperation.
AMOS BERTOLACCI – IMT SCHOOL FOR ADVANCED STUDIES LUCCA
Breaking The Wall Of Religious Diversity Through Philosophy
Amos Bertolacci’s research discloses the existence of a fundamental cultural bridge between Islam and the West.
LUCIE CLUVER – UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
Breaking The Wall of COVID-related Violence
Lucie Cluver helps to relieve stress in families globally and prevent child abuse, and directly address the social consequences of COVID-19 lockdowns and financial crisis.
KADE CROCKFORD – ACLU OF MASSACHUSETTS
Breaking the Wall of Face Surveillance
Kade Crockford succeeds in banning facial recognition tech in cities.
LUCIANO FLORIDI – OXFORD UNIVERSITY
Breaking The Wall Between Online and Offline
Luciano Floridi’s project on the foundation of the philosophy of information seeks to provide a new ethical and philosophical framework for the 21st century.
WILL KYMLICKA – QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Us and Them
Will Kymlicka draws on normative philosophy and empirical social science to investigate whether a world without “us” and “them” possible.
MARGARET LEVI – STANFORD UNIVERSITY, CENTER FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES (CASBS) Breaking The Wall To An Expanded Community Of Fate
Margaret Levi provides a framework to understand how institutions help individuals recognize how their destinies are entwined with strangers who can’t reciprocate.
JUSTYNA OLKO – UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW, CENTER FOR RESEARCH AND PRACTICE IN CULTURAL CONTINUITY
Breaking The Walls Between Academy and Local Communities in favour of Linguistic Diversity
Justyna Olko employs multidisciplinary approaches to promote language revitalisation and ethnic minority empowerment.
LILIA MORITZ SCHWARCZ – UNIVERSITY OF SÃO PAULO
Breaking The Wall to Authoritarianism in Brazil
Lilia Moritz Schwarcz offers an analysis of Brazil’s authoritarian regime.
ANDREAS RECKWITZ – HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITÄT ZU BERLIN
Breaking The Wall Of Singularities
Andreas Reckwitz derives a post-modern society of singularities which is based on social criteria of uniqueness, ultimately producing winners and losers.
SCIENCE AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT
Winners Session – 5 November, 14.15–15.15 CET
AJAY AGRAWAL – CREATIVE DESTRUCTION LAB
Breaking the Wall to Massively Scale Science Projects into Products & Services
Ajay Agrawal secures the entrepreneurial and commercial success of research projects with the Creative Destruction Lab.
CAROLYN BERTOZZI – STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall by Transforming Human Health Interdisciplinarily
Carolyn Bertozzi brings together Chemistry, Engineering and Medicine to address long-range challenges in Human health at the ChEM-H institute at Stanford.
MARC GRUBER – ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE (EPFL)
Breaking the Wall of Maximising Impact from Breakthrough Development
Marc Gruber at EPFL concentrates to connect newly developed technologies with the best available markets
HENRIKE HARTMANN – VOLKSWAGENSTIFTUNG
Breaking the Wall of Biased Grant Approvals
Henrike Hartmann champions randomised grant approvals leaving behind selection bias.
OLIVER MAI-KOLERUS & BENEDIKT SALMEN – EINSTEIN CENTER FOR NEUROSCIENCES BERLIN
Breaking the Wall to Enable the Next Impact-Driven Generation of Scientists
Oliver Mai-Kolerus & Benedikt Salmen empower young researchers to think and do science in original and effective ways at the ECN Lab for Open Innovation in Science.
RAFAEL LAGUNA DE LA VERA – SPRIND – BUNDESAGENTUR FÜR SPRUNGINNOVATIONEN
Breaking the Wall of Disruptive Innovation
Rafael Laguna de la Vera aims to pick and boost particular projects that will enable the next leapfrog to a new level of societal sophistication
TOBIAS OPIALLA – MAX DELBRUECK CENTER FOR MOLECULAR MEDICINE
Breaking the Wall to Pooled Lab Capacity
Tobias Opialla connects under-utilised labs with scientists at the online platform LabHive.
KRISTIN PERSSON – LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LAB
Breaking the Wall to Democratising Science
Kristin Persson providing free access to the research expertise and instrumentation needed to democratize science at the Molecular Foundry.
JACOB SHERSON – AARHUS UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall of Hybrid Intelligence
Jacob Sherson reinterprets the respective limitations of both human and artificial intelligence to forge a hybrid intelligence knowledge-production system
PABLO GARCIA TELLO – CERN
Breaking the Wall to Scaling up Breakthroughs for European Innovation
Pablo Garcia Tello connects research, development and innovation to scale up breakthrough ideas with the ATTRACT initiative at CERN.
Winners Session – 6 November, 13.15–14.15 CET
MIKHAIL EREMETS – MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR CHEMISTRY
Breaking the Wall to Room-Temperature Superconductivity
Mikhail Eremets has advanced the field of materials physics and pressure technology and paved the way to room temperature superconductivity at high pressure to produce valuable and unusual materials.
FRANK FLECHTNER – HELMHOLTZ CENTRE POTSDAM
Breaking the Wall of Monitoring Global Water Resources
Frank Flechtner monitors global water resources through specially tailored satellite missions and ultra-precise distance measurements, revolutionising the observation of climate-related changes in the Earth system.
SAMANTHA JOYE – UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
Breaking the Wall of the Deep Sea
Samantha Joye discovers deep ocean environments to find solutions to a number of global grand challenges.
WALTER LEITNER – RWTH AACHEN
Breaking the Wall to Closed Carbon Cycles
Walter Leitner sees CO₂ as raw material for green chemistry and uses it as a replacement in the production of materials and thereby reducing the carbon footprint.
KRISTEL MICHIELSEN – FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM JÜLICH
Breaking the Wall to Practical Quantum Computing
Kristel Michielsen played a key role in Google’s demonstration of quantum supremacy.
TILMAN PFAU – UNIVERSITY OF STUTTGART
Breaking the Wall to Supersolid Matter
Tilman Pfau’s work focuses on atomic, molecular, and optical physics with the aim to control and understand new phenomena in interacting quantum systems.
ARNO RAUSCHENBEUTEL – HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITÄT ZU BERLIN
Breaking the Wall of Quantum Nanophotonics
Arno Rauschenbeutel aims to realise quantum-enabled components for next-generation communication and information technologies, using nanophotonic atom-light interfaces.
SARA SEAGER – MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)
Breaking the Wall to Life Beyond Earth
Sara Seager explores life far into the Universe, with her main research goal to find and identify another Earth.
PIET O. SCHMIDT – PHYSIKALISCH-TECHNISCHE BUNDESANSTALT
Breaking the Wall of Laser Spectroscopy
Piet O. Schmidt’s breakthrough is in laser spectroscopy of highly charged ions, crucial for applications such as high precision clocks.
ANDREAS WALLRAFF – ETH ZÜRICH
Breaking the Wall to Efficient Quantum Computing
Andreas Wallraff’s work focuses on the experimental investigation of quantum effects in superconducting electronic circuits to improve performance.
SCIENCE IN THE ARTS
Winners Session – 7 November, 13.15–14.15 CET
REFIK ANADOL – UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA)
Breaking The Wall To Immersive AI Art
Refik Anadol’s groundbreaking audio-visual art turns Kraftwerk Berlin into an ecosystem of synesthetic interactions by utilizing a cutting-edge deep learning algorithm.
NORA AL-BADRI – ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE (EPFL)
Breaking the Wall to Ancestral Sculptures
Nora Al-Badri’s unique work joining art, AI, and cultural heritage uses advanced technology to generate new synthetic Babylonian objects based on ancestral ones, taking back and re-possessing cultural datasets from colonial Western museum collections.
STEFEN CHOW & HUIYI LIN
Breaking The Wall Of Poverty Line
Stefen Chow & Huiyi Lin’s ‘Poverty Line’ visually documents different standards and quality of life around the world, highlighting how economy regulates life.
SOUGWEN CHUNG – MIT MEDIA LAB
Breaking The Wall Between Art and Research
Sougwen Chung’s work explores the mark-made-by-hand and the mark-made-by-machine as an approach to understanding the dynamics of humans and systems.
BRANDON CLIFFORD – MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Breaking The Wall To Contemporary Thought
Brandon Clifford identifies contemporary blind-spots by mining ancient knowledge thatholds resonance with topics of today and holds possible solutions to our most pressing problems.
ALEXANDRA DAISY GINSBERG
Breaking the Wall to Machine Auguries
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg examines our fraught relationships with nature and technology by using emerging technologies in dialogue with scientists and experts.
CHARLOTTE JARVIS – ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
Breaking The Wall To Female Semen
Charlotte Jarvis uses art and science to disrupt patriarchy by making semen from “female” cells, and aims to rewrite a cultural narrative in which semen has been revered as magical substance.
Breaking The Wall Between Ethics, Durability, Ecology and Nature
Olga Kissaleva approaches her work as a scientist, exploring the hypotheses that plants can communicate amongst themselves.
ANDREA LING – GINKGO BIOWORKS
Breaking The Wall To Decay By Design
Andrea Ling’s work revolves around designing responsive skins informed by material ecology-centered design research.
HARRY YEFF (REEPS ONE) – R100 STUDIOS
Breaking The Wall Between The Human Voice and Technology
Harry Yeff (Reeps One) works at the intersection of voice, technology and performance and highlights the fundamental role of human voice: not only as a tool for communication, but also for our connection with technology and the world.
Winners Session – 7 November, 14.15–15.15 CET
TODD BROWN – BROAD INSTITUTE OF MIT AND HARVARD Breaking the Wall of the Lack of Public Health in Schools
Todd Brown is the co-inventor of the world’s first infectious disease simulation app.
STEPHANE COILLET-MATILLON – KIWIX
Breaking the Wall of Connectivity
Stephane Coillet-Matillon found a way to distribute online educational content to people without internet access.
ARTURO DOMINGUEZ – PRINCETON PLASMA PHYSICS LABORATORY
Breaking the Wall to Science Experiments from Home
Arturo Dominguez built a completely remote controlled plasma physics experiment.
LYNN FIELLIN – YALE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
Breaking the Wall to Help Teens Build Happier and Healthier Lives for Themselves
Lynn Fiellin builds and tests videogame interventions targeting HIV/STI prevention, mental health, and drug and alcohol use prevention.
KEITH KOSTRZEWSKI – CURRIKI
Breaking the Wall of Digital Education
Keith Kostrzewski is building a free software for all teachers to easily author exciting digital courses.
PETER MANUELIAN – HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall to Giza 3D: Visualizing the Pyramids
Peter Manuelian employs VR to allow for students around the world to enter the tombs of Giza.
DEEPAK RAMOLA – PROJECT FUEL
Breaking the Wall to where Everyone can Teach you Something
Deepak Ramola documents, designs and passes on wisdom from all ages and backgrounds across the world.
CHRYSTINA RUSSEL – SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall to Access to Post Secondary Education for Refugees
Chrystina Russel is unlocking the potential of a new generation of leaders affected by conflict and economic disinvestment.
SEBASTIAN STAAKS – RWTH AACHEN
Breaking the Wall to Widely Available Data Acquisition in Science Education
Sebatian Staaks built a free and open-source app to turn your smartphone into a mobile lab.
JULIE YOUNG – ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Breaking the Wall to Removing Artificial K12 to College Learning Boundaries
Julie Young eliminates the boundaries between high school and university to make educational journeys genuinely learner-centered.
ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY
Winners Session – 8 November, 13.15–14.15 CET
STEFAN BRENDELBERGER – GERMAN AEROSPACE CENTER (DLR)
Breaking The Wall To Solar Kerosene
Stefan Brendelberger’s technology converts concentrated solar energy water and CO2 into renewable kerosene, to replace fossil fuels in the aviation sector.
YI CUI – STANFORD UNIVERSITY AND SLAC NATIONAL ACCELERATOR LABORATORY
Breaking The Wall Of Efficient Batteries
Yi Cui has pioneered nanotechnology-based materials design to enable novel breakthrough materials which have ten times higher charge storage capacity than the current technology, a key element to clean energy strategies.
ALESSIO FIGALLI – ETH ZÜRICH
Breaking The Wall Of Transport
Alessio Figalli devises creative new tools and techniques to solve mathematical questions. He has used optimal transport theory to mathematically understand a great range of systems in nature, the atmosphere and machine learning.
CHRISTIAN KOOS – KARLSRUHE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (KIT)
Breaking The Wall Towards Ultra-Broadband Signal Processing
Christian Koos tackles the problem of limited bandwidth by combining electronics with photonic circuits and with optical frequency combs as ultra-precise clocks.
TEODORO LAINO – IBM RESEARCH EUROPE – ZURICH
Breaking The Wall Of Chemistry
Teodoro Laino leads a pioneering project integrating AI, Cloud and Automation to accelerate a new way of doing chemistry that is more digital and without the need for chemists to be in the lab.
YI CHUN LU – THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
Breaking The Wall Of Safe Energy Storage
Yi Chun Lu explores safe alternatives to batteries used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics, which are both flammable and toxic.
SIMONE SCHÜRLE – ETH ZÜRICH
Breaking The Wall Of Inefficient Drug Delivery
Simone Schürle develops diagnostic and therapeutic systems at the nano-and microscale with the aim to tackle a range of challenging problems in health care, including a recent breakthrough using micro-magnets to improve targeted drug delivery.
METIN SITTI – MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS
Breaking The Wall To Wireless Medical Robots Inside Our Body
Metin Sitti has created wireless, soft, miniature mobile robots, inspired by soft-bodied tiny animals that can navigate and function safely inside the human body.
KAREN SCRIVENER – EPFL – ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE
Breaking The Wall Of Housing People While Minimising Climate Change
Karen Scrivener has come up with a solution that reduces CO2 emissions in cement production, to ensure that housing and infrastructure are safe and affordable as well as more sustainable.
FRANK STEFAN TAUTZ – FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM JÜLICH
Breaking The Wall Of Building With Molecules
Frank Stefan Tautz has achieved a breakthrough in nanofabrication through the first-ever combination of AI and nanotechnology, whereby an autonomous artificial intelligence learns to grip and move molecules.
The detailed programme of all 10 Winner Sessions can be seen in the digital programme calendar.Tune in to the ‘Daily Highlights’ at 13.00 CET from 1 to 10 November to be informed of the most significant panels of the day.
The Winners for categories Emerging Talents, Science-based Start-ups and Science Engagement Initiatives will be announced on the respective day of the ‘Winners Session’ on 4, 6 and 8 November.
For all questions, please contact us.
Lisa Wagner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Falling Walls Foundation gGmbH
About the Falling Walls Foundation
The Falling Walls Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Berlin. The foundation creates international and interdisciplinary platforms and networks through its annual Falling Walls Conference, which asks each year on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall: Which walls will fall next?
The Berlin Science Week is organised with the support of the Senate Chancellery – Science and Research and Berlin Partner. Coordination is provided by the not-for-profit Falling Walls Foundation. The Falling Walls programme is conducted with the support of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research and many other partnersof the Falling Walls Foundation.