What do vertical farming, affordable prosthetics, hip dysplasia diagnostics, and cancer killing viruses have in common? All were the subject of student and company presentations at the third annual University of Alberta Falling Walls, hosted by the Office of the Vice President (Research) and TEC Edmonton.

Alberta and federal ministers signed a bilateral infrastructure funding agreement in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on September 1, 2016. Brian Mason, Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation and Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities (photo by Ian Jackson for Government of Alberta)

On Thursday, September 29, the University of Alberta’s TELUS Centre was transformed into a TED Talk/Dragon’s Den-like mashup of ideas and innovations as University of Alberta students and science-based startup companies presented their pitches on a breakthrough concept.

The Falling Walls Foundation is a Berlin-based organization that was founded on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It serves as a platform for academics and leaders in science, business, politics, the arts, and society, and asks what the next “walls” are to fall in our society.

This year, the Falling Walls Venture competition was brought to Edmonton for the first time, where science-based startup companies compete for a spot to present to internationally renowned academics and decision makers at the annual Falling Walls conference, taking place in Berlin November 8-9. The Venture portion of the event was hosted by TEC Edmonton, who selected the presenting companies, prepped and coached the companies, and recruited the jury. All Venture competition participants received free BaseCamp coaching from Randy Thompson, Edmonton Chapter President of VA Angels.

Alberta and federal ministers signed a bilateral infrastructure funding agreement in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on September 1, 2016. Brian Mason, Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation and Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities (photo by Ian Jackson for Government of Alberta)

Three companies were named finalists of the Venture competition: aGRO Systems, G2V Optics, and Mighty Dredge. In the end, Mighty Dredge emerged as the winner and will be going on to present in Berlin. The Fort McMurray-based company that developed a device that cleans up standing water masses like tailings ponds.

The other half of the event, Falling Walls Lab, is an international competition designed to showcase the talent and innovative ideas of the next generation of researchers. Lab competitions take place in over 30 countries.

Lab participants have three minutes to present their idea or innovation to a jury from post-secondary, government, or industry. The top 100 winners from around the world will advance to present in Berlin. The lab portion only requires that the idea exhibit social impact, or a “big idea” that has the potential to bring about real change.

The student winners of the Lab portion of the competition were: Kyle Potts (First place: Breaking the Wall of Cancer Therapy with Viruses), Abhilash Rakkunedeth (Second place, Breaking the Wall of Hip Dysplasia), and Katherine Evans (Third place, Breaking the Wall of Sensory Feedback in Prosthetic Limbs). All three student winners will advance to Berlin.

Alberta and federal ministers signed a bilateral infrastructure funding agreement in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on September 1, 2016. Brian Mason, Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation and Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities (photo by Ian Jackson for Government of Alberta)

Lorne Babiuk, Vice President (Research), presented the winning companies and students with certificates. Congratulations to all, and good luck in Berlin!

Learn more about Falling Walls at the University of Alberta here.

All photos courtesy of Epic Photography.