TUM São Paulo: Falling Walls Lab Colombia 2021 - TUM liaison officer moderates local preliminary competition for the Andean region

News, Global South, TUM Global, TUM São Paulo |

On May 22, the regional elimination final for Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela to participate in the Falling Walls Lab 2021 took place. This decision will determine the candidate with the most groundbreaking idea in terms of innovation, who will be allowed to participate in the final round of the competition in Berlin. TUM São Paulo liaison officer Sören Metz moderated the 2.5-hour virtual event.

Slide from the video call with all participants
The finalists of the Falling Walls Lab Colombia regional preliminary together with the jury and TUM liaison officer Sören Metz. Photo: DAAD Bogotá

The Falling Walls Lab (FWL) is part of the Falling Walls Conference. This event, organized by the Falling Walls Foundation, brings together around a hundred young, international scientists in Germany each year to present their research approaches and share discoveries and ideas that have the potential to change the world. The goal of the FWL is to promote exceptional ideas and connect them globally with representatives from all areas of science and industry.

Participation of the TUM São Paulo liaison office

The competition, which was held for the third time in Colombia, was organized completely virtually this year. In 2018 and 2019, the winners were each chosen on site in Bogotá. This year, the DAAD office in Bogotá organized the regional elimination round in cooperation with the German-Colombian Chamber of Industry and Commerce and EAN University. Further support in the form of an additional prize came from the EURAXESS Office for Latin America. At the invitation of the DAAD regional office in Bogotá, TUM liaison officer Sören Metz guided through the event as moderator.

Convincing the jury in a three-minute pitch

The attraction of the event lies in the variety of short contributions: All participants – six from Colombia, two from Venezuela and one candidate from Peru – were given three minutes to present the relevance and transformative power of their respective proposal in a video presentation. They then had to answer live questions from the jury, which was made up of experts from academia, business and the innovation ecosystem.

The jury conducted its evaluation based on three criteria: innovation character, relevance & impact of the proposal and presentation quality. This year, the projects presented covered a range of topics from solar cells to mental health as well as water supply to educational access.

Educall travels to Berlin for the finals

The prize for the most groundbreaking idea in the Andean region went to Daniel Garavito from Colombia. To make the event interactive, viewers were allowed to vote on the audience award in the YouTube livestream. Around 2,000 also voted for Daniel Garavito, so he went home with two awards. The winning project is called Educall and will represent the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador in the finals of Falling Walls in Berlin in early November 2021.

The idea behind Educall is that learners can access audiobooks, learning platforms, and internet search with a simple phone call and without the internet at all. The background is the insufficient internet connection and the limited access to internet packages especially in rural areas of Latin America. The project is currently in the pilot phase and students in Colombia can already test the learning offering free of charge.

Promising innovation potential in Latin America

The jury was very enthusiastic about all the projects. Jury member Helmuth Obilcnik, CEO of Bosch for northern Latin America, even sees connections and potential uses within his company for most of the projects.

The Falling Walls Lab in Colombia once again demonstrates the enormous innovation potential of the region, which TUM is already successfully exploiting through its liaison office in São Paulo. For example, Latin American talents were informed about the Global DeepTech program as well as start-up opportunities in Germany at the TUM Global DeepTech event in March, and further initiatives in the field of entrepreneurship are planned for the future.