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Five emerging bright minds off to Australia

11 September 2017

Five emerging bright minds off to Australia to pitch their innovative ideas

Novel solutions to tackling invasive plants, climate change, AI and education, better knee replacements and making sustainable agriculture truly sustainable have won five early career researchers from New Zealand and the Pacific the chance to compete at the Australian Falling Walls Lab in Canberra on September 12.

The early career researchers have been selected by Royal Society Te Apārangi, in collaboration with the Germany Embassy. They will compete against 20 selected from Australia to see who will attend the Falling Walls Lab final in Berlin.

Falling Walls Lab gives emerging bright minds the chance to network and become the next big success story in innovation. It provides an opportunity for early career researchers and innovative thinkers to share, in 3 minutes, their idea, research project, or social initiative from all disciplines.

The global event is run by The Falling Walls Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Berlin, dedicated to the support of science and the humanities. It was established in 2009, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At its heart is the question ‘Which are the next walls to fall?’ as a result of scientific, technological, economic and sociological breakthroughs.

For 2017, the New Zealand Falling Walls Lab is a collaboration between Royal Society Te Apārangi, the Germany Embassy in Wellington and Canberra, and the Australian Academy of Science.

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From left: Christopher Petrie, Mehdi Saeidi, German Ambassador to New Zealand HE Mr Gerhard Thiedemann, Royal Society Te Apārangi President Professor Richard Bedford, Sunil Gopaul, Peni Hausia Havea and Federico Tomasetto.

The selected New Zealand Falling Walls Lab participants are:

- Sunil Gopaul, University of the South Pacific, Fiji (Breaking the Wall of Invasion Biology: on how to minimise the spread of an invasive pest and restore native flora in Fiji )
- Peni Hausia Havea, University of the South Pacific, Fiji (Breaking the Wall of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: on how five coastal communities in Tonga can adapt)
- Christopher Petrie, University of Canterbury (Breaking the Wall of Education and Artificial Intelligence: on using software to personalise education with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning)
- Mehdi Saeidi, Auckland University of Technology (Breaking the Wall of Knee Replacements in Younger Patients: on developing an implant that will remove excessive load and slow progression of osteoarthritis)
- Federico Tomasetto, AgResearch Limited (Breaking the Wall of Sustainable Agriculture: on how to keep pace with pests with sustainable pest management).
President of Royal Society Te Apārangi, Professor Richard Bedford, and the German Ambassador to New Zealand, H.E. Mr Gerhard Thiedemann, hosted a reception for the Falling Walls Lab participants in Wellington today. The reception was an opportunity for the Society and the German Embassy to meet the awardees and wish them good luck before they fly to Canberra to compete tomorrow, and for the awardees to share their idea and network.

“This year, thanks to support from the German Embassy in Wellington, we are very pleased to have had the opportunity to also include applications from Pacific Island Forum Nations, in particular students at the University of South Pacific,” says Professor Bedford.

“The New Zealand Falling Walls Lab event offers an opportunity for the Society and the German Embassy to foster the sharing of new ideas and to create networking opportunities for bright early career researchers from New Zealand, Australian and the Pacific Islands.”

The German Ambassador Gerhard Thiedemann stated: “The scientific collaboration between countries is always of vital importance for any flourishing international friendship, which is why Germany strongly supports the Falling Walls project. It is delighting to see how bright young minds strengthen these relationships by presenting their visionary ideas on approaching global challenges.”


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