Success in the Falling Walls Lab New Zealand competition

Success for Riddet Institute researcher Dr Nick Smith this week who took second place in the Falling Walls Lab New Zealand competition 2021. Nick was selected from applicants around New Zealand to present their innovative ideas at the online Falling Walls Lab New Zealand held by Royal Society Te Apārangi. This event was supported by the German Embassy in Wellington, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Catalyst: Leaders Fund and EURAXESS Australia & New Zealand. The winner was Muhummad Rehan, another Massey University researcher, who won with a presentation on his robotic capsule that aims to break down the wall of gut sampling.

Nick’s presentation was titled – “Breaking the Wall of Sustainable Global Nutrition”. The competition is an opportunity for early-career researchers to showcase their innovative ideas. In a 3-minute presentation, participants present their research, business model or initiative, showcasing a breakthrough that creates a positive impact on science and society.  All disciplines are welcome: from agriculture, medicine, economics, engineering to social science and the humanities. The event is inspired by the world-changing event of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, with the question at every Falling Walls gathering: Which walls will fall next?

Nick has a background in mathematical modelling of complex systems and he is currently working on developing the DELTA Model: a globally applicable tool to investigate sustainable nutrient production for human consumption. His goal is to understand what the future food system could look like in order to deliver nutrition for all without compromising sustainability.  Interestingly, he says that modelling has already shown that fixing the issue of food waste won’t solve global nutritional deficiencies, because the foods we waste most of don’t contain the nutrients we are lacking. The DELTA Model allows people to test out different scenarios themselves, such as changing production to see how this will impact on global nutrition. “It’s an exploration tool so that we can all explore how the global food system should work to be sustainable nutritionally, economically and environmentally.”

Royal Society Te Apārangi President Dr Brent Clothier FRSNZ said the Society was extremely pleased to be able to host Falling Walls Lab New Zealand for the third time after it had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He offered thanks to the German Embassy in Wellington, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Catalyst: Leaders Fund and EURAXESS Australia & New Zealand for their support for the event. He also thanked Kathryn McPherson and her team of jury members.

The other jury members were Chris Karamea Insley, Chair and Executive Director at Te Arawa Fisheries Group and Chair of Te Taumata advancing Maori business interests in to all Free Trade Agreements and a Member of the APEC2021 Business Leadership Group; Professor Phil Lester, Insect Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington, Veronika Meduna, New Zealand Editor for The Conversation; and Monique Surges, CEO German-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Inc.

Falling Walls Labs are held at locations across the globe and the winners from each Lab are invited to the Falling Walls Lab finale in Berlin in November and attend the Falling Walls Conference – the International Conference on Future Breakthroughs in Science and Society.

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.

Source – Royal Society Te Apārangi

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