Interview: Falling Walls Lab Czech Republic 2018 winner - Markéta Klíčová

Falling Walls Lab  (FWL) is an international gathering created not only for the propagation of science but also it is a platform where people meet to share innovative ideas amidst a friendly community.

The ideas are presented in 3-minute-long pitches after which the jury selects a winner.

The winner of every national FWL represents the home institution on a global FWL Finale in Berlin. Here the speakers share the know-how even further and interact with important representatives from all fields of business and academia. Nevertheless, the aim is not to compete, but to share innovation and make the world a better place.

The FWL Czech Republic 2018 was organized by CEITEC together with Vida! Centre, DAAD and German Embassy. The Czech winner, Markéta Klíčová from the Technical University of Liberec, won the audience price in Berlin.

Congratulation once more, Markéta, and thanks for sharing your experience with us! 

Can you describe your Falling Walls Lab (FWL) experience? This might inspire others to follow in your footsteps!

It started on one rainy afternoon when I was leisurely browsing the internet at home, and accidentally found (via Facebook) that "some" Falling Walls Lab event takes place in Brno. It was still possible to apply (fun fact #1– I almost missed the deadline). I was very interested and wanted to find out more about it. Right after that, I saw a video of the Falling Walls Lab 2017 in Berlin. It was "love at first sight", I felt like "Ok, let's do it. I wanna experience it."

So I started to prepare my presentation. The biggest challenge was to describe my whole topic in three minutes.

Then I went to Brno (fun fact #2 – just a few days after I finished my diploma thesis, so totally exhausted) and met a very inspiring group of people, who are trying to make our environment/architecture/human relations better. I was so happy to be there, and made some friends (we still send each other messages).

After Dr. Markus Dettenhofer announced the winners and gave me the symbolic ticket to Berlin, I was moved and one sentence popped into my head, "Wow, you are going to experience it!."

A few months later, I was taking a train to Berlin, starting to become a little nervous; not because of my presentation, but my fear of a competitive atmosphere. I expected a very fierce environment beginning on the first day. But surprisingly, it didn't feel like a competition at all. Actually, during the first afternoon in Berlin, I immediately made some friends, had a great time visiting the Embassy of Canada, and had dinner together with all 100 finalists.

(Fun fact #3 – Many of finalists, who came from 100 countries around the world, spend an entire day travelling without a proper meal, finally got to eat dinner together. As a consequence, there was absolutely no food left in the entire restaurant when we finished!) And this atmosphere continued throughout the 4 days of the programme in Berlin, and also through the finale.

The other FWL finalists - instead of competing with each other - created a friendly relaxing atmosphere. I felt it throughout the whole finale, and for that, I owe them a lot!

What were your motivation and expectation to apply for the FWL Czech Republic?

I wanted to be present during this special event. The idea of bringing together young people, both from academic and business worlds, with breakthrough ideas, sharing one stage and creating an open-minded team, was a great motivation.

What was your feeling like when you won the national round? What are the other flashbacks you get from the FWL Czech Republic?

I was excited and in tears of joy. I have a few important flashbacks in my head. My best friend since childhood was cheering for me. The moment when I shook hands with Dr. Dettenhofer, and I realized that I am going to Berlin. Other competitors were congratulating me on a "well-deserved prize" without any jealousy. And finally, drinking the celebratory champagne on the way back to Liberec (on the bus) with my best friend, and calling my amazing supervisor Dr. Jana Horáková to convey my success.

What has changed after this success, both personally and professionally?

It brought a lot of media attention to my home university (Technical University of Liberec) and especially to the Department of Nonwovens and Nanofibrous Materials where the nanofibrous patch was invented. TV reporters also visited our Department, and I was delighted that we could bring our research closer to the public.

I was delighted that we could bring our research

closer to the public

Dr. Markus Dettenhofer provided you 2 preparatory workshops for the FWL Berlin. How would you describe this experience?

Very useful. It pushed me to work even harder. We struggled mostly with my speech, and that’s something I wouldn’t have been able to improve on my own. In my opinion, we were also able to shift the visual effects of the presentation to a higher level. Hence, I would like to sincerely thank Dr. Dettenhofer for providing me with these workshops.

Tell us about the Falling Walls International forum in Berlin.

The FWL, as well as the major Falling Walls conference, was part of Berlin Science Week. During the FWL, a hundred competitors from all around the world shared one stage, each of them had three minutes to present.

They sparked my interest in many different fields (for example, fighting against environmental pollution). You could also feel the continuous support, coming from the FWL organizing team, other competitors, moderators, and also from the audience. Right after my presentation, I received messages from other competitors telling me, "good job" and "nice presentation." It meant a lot to me.

After the announcement of the results, we went to the official opening of the FW conference, had champagne, and then took a bus to the city centre for kebabs :-D

I have to say that the whole day and event was very mentally demanding, and I was really tired.

How did you feel after winning the audience award?

So many emotions.

I strongly remember the moment when I shook hands with the Head of the Jury - Claudia Haigneré, the former astronaut. I always wanted to become an astronaut, so you can imagine my excitement.

I was proud that I was able to successfully represent both – the Technical University of Liberec and the Biomedical Centre in Pilsen. All my colleagues are working so hard, always trying to find solutions to new challenges and they supported me.

That day was also the 50th anniversary of the Department of Nonwovens and Nanofibrous Materials. The award was my gift to the department! I was satisfied that I introduced the topic to an audience from around the world, and received valuable feedback. Thank you all who voted for me!


How did it help you to expand your professional/personal networks?

It helped me to expand my network further. I made a lot of new friends. I believe when you go through this amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience you will stay friends forever. My professional network also expanded, but not new contacts from my specialized area of "tissue engineer focused on nanofibers", rather with people from very different backgrounds. That is great.

What do you think FWL brings in your life and research and how did it change your life?

I made great new friends. It may sound like a cliché; but, I’ll give more details.

The FWL 2018 alumni have a shared chat, and right now we are planning to meet again. We are choosing a country. It could be a challenge; we would like to change the place every year and rotate the globe together! Haha, funny and a bit crazy, but I’m in! Stefan from Germany (I bet he will laugh when he reads this) sent me a funny Christmas gift, and we are planning to meet again. Doug from Canada is invited to visit our university to present his research.

The audience prize from Berlin brought a lot of media attention, and I could share the idea with a lot of people. I also believe the prize will always be an advantage for my future career.

Any particular inspiration (idol/book/incident), which helped you to prepare yourself for the FWL?

No, I tried to mainly stay myself and feel comfortable during the speech (not to overact, etc.).

Any tips for the future applicants of FW Lab 2019?

Do not hesitate and apply. There is nothing to lose. It is a win-win situation! You gain new friends; you will be a part of a very inspiring environment. People from varied backgrounds and expertise can provide you with interesting tips. My tip for preparing a presentation – make it as simple as possible, and highlight your breakthrough idea. Do not include any specialized data and tables. The secret tip before giving a speech, which works for me, is connected to mental-preparedness. Close your eyes, imagine the people, imagine the stage, and the room; be ready for that moment. 

Tip for preparing a presentation – make it as easy as possible, highlight your breakthrough idea. Avoid specialized data and tables, these can mar your message

How would you recommend CR to improve the organization of the event in 2019?

The organization was very good. I received all important documents before the competition.  The venue was excellent (VIDA! Science center, Brno), and the attached amusement park enhanced the overall experience. 

What do you value the most from the FWL experience? Any take home messages?

Science doesn't have to be a competition. But it can nicely be a celebration of continuous hard work, dedication, with an open mind and heart.


The next FWL Czech Republic will be held on 2nd October 2019 at VIDA! Centre, Brno.

Your unforgettable life experience is waiting for you, so do not hesitate to apply!

You get the opportunity to express your passion and share your idea in just 3 minutes, interact with like-minded people, win 1000 EURO, and participate in the global FWL finale in Berlin. The experience can kick-start your career real fast.

But, bear in mind that FWL is not about winning, it is about sharing.

We strongly encourage young innovators and entrepreneurs from all disciplines to apply!

We welcome gender diversity.

Interviewed by Jana Bujnáková and Somsuvro Basu

Image source: Falling Walls Lab album - Flickr

Publication date: 29.03.2019