FCCU hosts ‘Falling Walls Lab’ for record second year

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Lahore: Forman Christian College (FCCU), a chartered university, has made history by hosting the Falling Walls Lab two years running.

With less than a month to go in the ultimate ‘Falling Walls Lab’ which is to be held in Berlin, innovators and researchers from all across the globe are waiting in anticipation to showcase their ideas in front of a world renowned jury.

The Forman Christian College was honoured to host the ‘Falling Walls Lab’ for a second time this year. Given the fervour and dedication of the organising team, over a 100 applications were submitted. After a grueling shortlisting process that focused on innovation and relevance of ideas, 16 candidates were invited to present at the lab at FCCU on October 10, 2017.

The Falling Walls Lab is a non-profit series of scientific conferences aimed at building and fostering connections between outstanding researchers, academics, entrepreneurs, and professionals. These conferences take place across the globe throughout the year in which undergraduates and postgraduates, young professionals, entrepreneurs and junior professors – whose latest university degrees do not date back more than 5 years –  are allowed to apply for the competition.

The winner of each Falling Walls Lab qualifies for the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin on November 8, with accommodation provided by the Falling Walls Foundation. Travel expenses for the winner are paid for by the hosting institution, in this case, Forman Christian College.
The date for the labs coincides with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

In total, 100 applicants qualify for the finale in Berlin. Each finalist receives the opportunity to present their research work, initiative or business model within three minutes in front of a high-caliber jury from academia, research and business. The three winners receive a cash prize and give their talks again on the grand stage of the Falling Walls Conference, before an audience which comprises global entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on the next day.

FCCU was also the only university in the world two years running, to have its name as a part of the official title of the conference: Falling Walls Lab FCCU Lahore, 2017.

Eminent members of the business community and society were invited to attend the conference at FC on October 10, with legendary bureaucrat and policy maker Salman Siddique, a proud Formanite, as jury chairman. Other members of the jury were renowned entrepreneurs and innovators, like Salman Danish (Medialogic),  Raza Saeed (Pakwheels), Ali Sarfraz (Karandaaz), Pir Saad Ahsanuddin (Cinepax) and Ali Raza Siddique (JS Bank).

Each applicant was allowed three minutes to present three power point slides, followed by a two-minute question and answer session. The jurors evaluated the presentation with a score based on three criteria: Breakthrough Factor – does the idea have originality and represents a discovery, Relevance/Impact – does it have a long-term or short-term effect, and Structure/Performance.

This year, one aspiring innovator, PakStraw CEO  Shayan Sohail, wowed both the jury and the audience with PakStraw, a simple device that can filter 1500 liters of water with 99.9999% of purity anywhere, anytime, without any power requirements while working just like a drinking straw.

The entire audience gasped when Shayan offered a glass of previously murky muddy water, now purified, to members of the jury to taste and test! Needless to say, Shayan almost missed the group photograph as there was a huge demand for this purified water, once he was announced the winner of Falling Walls Lab FCCU Lahore 2017.

Shayan claims that his main goal is to make this technology available to both urban and rural areas. This technology comes in other amazing varieties as well, such as bottle filters, home filters, and community level filters. Upon being announced winner, Shayan was delighted and thankful to the Falling Walls initiative and is eagerly awaiting the trip to Berlin to present his project at the global platform. We wish him the best of luck.

One definite coup for both the School of Management and the participating contestants, was the audio call from United States of America of one participant, Muhammad Asad Raza of Sysdes Technologies, who was unable to make it back for the conference in Lahore. It was most opportune that the presentation was facilitated in this manner, as Asad was named runner-up for his proposition to break the ‘Wall of Dependence’. The third prize for the evening was awarded to Muhammad Jawad who developed a multipurpose Integrated Photovoltaics.

One clear theme that emerged from the ideas presented at the Lab was the consciousness that exists within the youth of Pakistan to investigate ways in which to conquer waste and energy shortages especially pertaining to emerging economies. We sincerely commend the efforts taken by universities in Pakistan to foster such ideas and talent.

Jury and audience were also keen to know the progress that Awais Shafique, co-founder of Tremor Acquisition and Minimization (TAME) had made, since winning Falling Walls Lab FCCU Lahore 2016. Awais couldn’t join the evening via Skype, as he was suffering from flu but conveyed his deepest gratitude to Falling Walls Lab FCCU Lahore for providing him the opportunity to take his ideas globally. Awais is currently in Munich, as a working student at Medineering Surgical Robotics.

The event was organised by the Leadership Forum and the School of Management’s faculty under the leadership of the Executive Dean Dr Major General (retd) Noel Khokar at FCCU, who in his opening address, appreciated the need for such global events to provide exposure to the students. He also thanked eminent members of both the jury and the audience for their appreciation and support for attending the event and travelling especially to Lahore in the afternoon. FCCU students led by Osama Shahid and Mahad Tahir partnered with Leadership Forum as the official photographers and videographers for the event. Mariam Khalid moderated the event as the master of ceremonies and Maryyam Khan and Asim George were the event managers on the day.

Apart from the innovative ideas presented, the evening also provided a wonderful opportunity for industry networks to be established. There was widespread participation by other entrepreneurial initiatives and the most wonderful opportunities were provided when collaborative and participation opportunities were offered to some contestants on the spot by representatives of National Incubation Center Lahore based at LUMS. This encouragement by industry representatives establishes the noteworthy point that such conferences are not just about the winning idea but also fostering innovation and having a positive outlook toward entrepreneurship, in order to set the tone for future students to break the walls of risk averseness!

The event was also attended by Babar Nizami from Pakistan Today, the official media partner of Falling Walls Lab FCCU, 2017. There was also an impressive presence of the deans and distinguished senior faculty of FC College that led to a sophisticated and rigorous discourse during the networking breaks.

The event formally culminated in closing remarks by the Jury Chairman Salman Siddique who urged the participants to carry on with their innovative endeavours and was hopeful that Formanites would host their own innovation conference and make it an annual event in Pakistan with worldwide participation. He maintained that in our country, entrepreneurship is the way forward and commended the School of Management for organising such an evening with international linkages. He also fondly remembered his own time which he spent at FC through amusing anecdotes, while promising his continued support to the department going forward.

The lab came to a joyful end with a group photograph, followed by a networking tea organised by Copper Kettle for the keen participants and the esteemed guests present, in order to allow for more linkages to be developed between the think tanks and the youth of Pakistan.