Sponsored Content

Are you an innovator with an idea the world should know about? Enter our competition and stand a chance to pitch your innovation to a prestigious international audience in Berlin in November!

As a child growing up in Harare, Zimbabwe, Emmie Chiyindiko would often make-believe that she was a cartoon superhero from ‘Captain Planet and the Planeteers’. “In my head, I was one of the Planeteers.” Today, the 28 year old Chemistry PhD student at the University of the Free State (UFS) is making waves internationally with her cutting-edge research in next-generation solar cells.

Imagine turbocharged solar cells that are three times cheaper to make and produce 40% more energy than conventional solar cells. And imagine that these cells can generate high amounts of energy even under low-light conditions, making solar a more reliable and stable form of energy. With her innovative research in these cells, Emmie Chiyindiko impressed the judges at the Falling Walls Lab Cape Town, co-hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the University of Cape Town. ‘Falling Walls Labs’ are events held around the world in which budding innovators have just three minutes to pitch a groundbreaking idea that stands to change the world for the better.

The winners of these international labs come together in Berlin, Germany on the 9th of November each year – the day that marks the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. There, the lab winners compete against one another. At the grand finale in Berlin last year, Emmie placed 2nd out of 74 contestants with her pitch on next-generation solar cells entitled ‘breaking the wall of darkness’.

Not only do the international lab winners gain international exposure for their innovative research, they are able to network with their global innovator peers as well as with major potential investors and incubators. The lab winners also have the opportunity to rub shoulders with renowned movers and shakers. In 2021, the Falling Walls keynote speech in Berlin was given by none other than Dr Özlem Türeci who, together with her team at BioNTech, developed one of the first mRNA-vaccines against COVID-19. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also been amongst the Falling Walls keynote speakers.

Emmie’s Falling Walls journey did not end in Berlin. Energized and inspired by her experience, Emmie will host the first Falling Walls Lab in Zimbabwe this year, supported in her trail-blazing path by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s Harare team. Emmie’s mission is to share the opportunity she had with budding talents in her home country and change lives in doing so.

At a time marked by the pandemic, political polarisation, a crumbling of the globalisation project and war in Europe (a region that has been characterised by peace and stability over recent decades), the coming together of innovators from across the globe has now gained a new symbolism and importance. Whilst various forces are working to divide us, innovation and scientific progress stand to unite and propel us into a brighter future – not only figuratively but quite literally too, as Emmie has shown.

Watch our inaugural 2019 Falling Walls Lab Cape Town winner, who blew the judges away with her pitch about extracting urea from urine and turning it into jet fuel. DM

Author: Cecelia Kok, Head of Research and Advocacy Projects, South Africa Friedrich Naumann Foundation


More about the Falling Walls competition:

Do you have an idea the world should know about?

Apply to present that idea at the Falling Walls Lab Cape Town on Thursday 22 September 2022! Then convince the jury of your idea – in 3 minutes.

1st prize:

Trip to Berlin to participate in the international Falling Walls finale + R10 000

2nd prize:

R8 000

3rd prize:

R6 000

Students as well as early-career researchers, academics and entrepreneurs are eligible to apply.

Ideas from all academic disciplines are welcome.

Application deadline: 5 August 2022

Apply here: falling-walls.com/lab/apply

Watch our 1 minute ‘call for applications’ video for more info.


You must be 18 years or older when submitting your application. There is no upper age limit for applicants.

You must also fulfill at least one of the following academic requirements:

● You are currently enrolled in university and/or are currently a postdoc
● You received a Bachelor’s degree no more than 10 years ago
● You received a Master’s degree no more than 7 years ago
● You received a PhD no more than 5 years ago

Falling Walls Lab Cape Town is currently one of two Falling Walls Labs hosted in South Africa. Do also look out for details of the annual Falling Walls Lab Pretoria, co-hosted by the DAAD and the Tshwane University of Technology. Write to [email protected] for further information about this lab.

Finally, a big thank you to Prof Dyllon Randall  and Dr John Woodland from the University of Cape Town – two former Falling Walls Lab Berlin finalists themselves – who are instrumental in making the Falling Walls Lab Cape Town such a success.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted