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Science Breakthrough of the Year Award in the Science Start-Ups Category from Falling Walls

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Science Breakthrough of the year Award. Interview with Alina Mendt Project Manager. A photo at right of a man holding a microphone on a red stage.

Preface: We recently spoke with Alina Mendt, a project manager at the Falling Walls Foundation, to learn more about the Science Breakthrough of the Year award in the Science Start-Ups category. As the name suggests, Falling Walls is based in Berlin, but is a global hub connecting science, business and society. Falling Walls is “built on outstanding experiences of gathering, learning and the connection to a higher purpose by tackling the greatest challenges of this planet.” The not-for-profit organization stands “for the freedom of thought and scientific research, and for making ground-breaking ideas accessible to society.”[1]

The nomination and application deadline for the 2024 Breakthrough of the Year award in the Science Start-Ups category is on May 1, 2024. The winners will be invited to present their start-ups on stage at the Falling Walls Science Summit on November 7, 2024 in Berlin, Germany.

Tell us more about the Science Breakthrough of the Year in the Science Start-Ups category.

Falling Walls Venture is a global platform to showcase the entrepreneurial potential in science. It is a competition that provides a stage for pioneering science-based start-ups who have successfully turned science into business, proving how entrepreneurial solutions can help solve today’s most pressing challenges. Every year, one start-up is awarded the title “Science Breakthrough of the Year” in the Science Start-Ups category for combining excellent research and entrepreneurial expertise. Last year’s winner was the Dutch company Reyedar, which pioneered a patient-friendly device that can detect degenerative eye and brain diseases early.

What is your role at Falling Walls?

I am a project manager at Falling Walls Venture. My responsibilities include promoting the call for nominations and managing nominations and applications. I coordinate the start-up selection process and make sure that selected companies from around the world can pitch their work at the Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin.

I understand the Start-Ups category is one of several award categories from Falling Walls. How many award categories are there each year?

There are currently eight categories, among them Science Start-Ups, Science Engagement, and the Women’s Impact Award. Within the Science Start-Ups category, there are three clusters: Health, Sustainability, and Engineering for the Future. One award is granted in each of them, with one of the winners also receiving the title “Science Breakthrough of the Year” in the Science Start-Ups category.

What have you done to make the Falling Walls award program more visible and accessible globally?

The Falling Walls Foundation has an extensive global network of stakeholders from science and academia, different industry sectors and politics that we reach out to. We are also regularly researching and scouting science start-ups beyond this network, paying special attention to the global South.

Are there start-ups that you are particularly proud to have supported?

We encounter many inspiring and pioneering science start-ups each year. One of them is Puna Bio, a biotech company that uses microorganisms from the highest and driest desert on earth to develop biological inputs for agriculture that increase yields, reduce carbon emissions, and restore degraded soil. You can watch their pitch here.

What makes a stellar application in the Science Start-Ups category – one that stands out among all others?

Outstanding applications often put a lot of emphasis on the “why?” which demonstrates genuine passion and a deeper understanding of a desired purpose in our eyes. These applications are characterized by teams of scientists not afraid to dream, teams that openly share with us their visions of how their ideas could positively impact the world.

Why should start-ups apply?

Start-ups get the chance to grow their global reach and visibility while expanding their network with investors, institutions and strategic partners. The 25 Venture Winners will get coached on pitching and present their work to a distinguished jury, global leaders and a selected audience during the prestigious Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin. 

If you founded a science start-up or know of one that would benefit from our program, we would be happy to receive your nomination or application! Read more here.


We extend our sincere gratitude to Alina Mendt, Project Manager at Falling Walls Foundation, for taking the time for this interview. Thank you to the Falling Walls Foundation for all of your initiatives to promote global science communication, global research connections and the well-deserved recognition to the world’s most promising research.

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