Rolex Announces The Five Winners Of The 2019 Rolex Awards For Enterprise
Scientists from Uganda, Brazil, France, India, and Canada received grants for their groundbreaking projects.
Rolex has once again reaffirmed its dedication to the planet with the winners of the 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Out of ten finalists, five were selected to receive generous grants for their projects. Established in 1976, the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex Oyster chronometer, the awards are designed to “foster a spirit of enterprise, advance human knowledge, and protect our cultural heritage and the environment,” according to the brand.
Outstanding in Their Fields
This year, ten finalists presented their individual projects at the National Geographic Explorers Festival. Overall, 957 people applied for consideration for the awards from 111 countries. The winners will receive funding in order to continue their projects, not to mention a Rolex watch!
Launched over 40 years ago, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise gives its Laureates financial support to continue their valuable work. A jury comprised of independent experts considered each finalist’s work, and for the first time, the public was able to vote through social media and through Rolex’s website, with their opinions taken into consideration for the final decision.
This year, for the first time, not only will the five Laureates receive financial support for their projects, the other five finalists will be named Associate Laureates and also receive a grant for continuing their work.
Krithi Karanth - Conservation Scientist
Krithi Karanth is on a mission to help wildlife and humans coexist in the regions surrounding the national parks in her native India. Animals including elephants and lions can impart damage and sometimes injury to property, farm animals and humans. “Human-wildlife conflict involves people losing crops to elephants, losing livestock to tigers.”
While families are entitled to compensation for their losses, only about 30% are able to do so. Karanth’s Wild Seve organization enables people in rural areas to access their rightful compensation, which she believes will go a long way towards alleviating hostilities between people and the animals who share their land.
Miranda Wang - Tackling Plastic Pollution
Canadian Miranda Wang is on a mission to turn unrecyclable plastics, including plastic bags and packing materials, into useful by-products. Now, as a Laureate, she will receive generous funding to be able to continue her vital work. “I am so grateful to receive this award, which will give me the ability to take this further,” she said.
At just 25 years old, Wang has formed her own company. BioCellection, is “developing an array of unique technologies to turn the worst of the world’s plastic wastes into valuable industrial chemicals,” Rolex shared in a statement. If their techniques achieve what Wang is aspiring to, nearly one-third of non-recyclable plastics could be converted into usable materials.
Gregoire Courtine - Helping paralyzed people to walk again
Scientist Gregoire Courtine wants to help people who are paralyzed to walk again. His “method relies on re-establishing communication between the brain and spinal cord using an implantable electronic ‘bridge’, potentially encouraging nerve regrowth and restoring the patient’s control of their legs,” Rolex said in a statement.
Dr. Courtine focuses on how the brain controls movement and is working with six paralyzed patients using his groundbreaking technology. With the grant, “I can take my project to the next stage and I can scale up my work” he said. Next up for Dr. Courtine? Taking on new patients whose injuries are very recent, to take advantage of the “open window” that can enable faster progress in the newly injured.
Joäo Campos-Silva - Preserving the world’s largest freshwater fish
Brazilian fisheries ecologist Joäo Campos-Silva is out to keep the world’s largest freshwater fish, the great arapaima, from extinction. The threatened species lives in the Amazon and is a vital link in the ecosystem, as well as food supply of the indigenous communities in the area. “Overfishing is the basis of the problem,” he said. “The arapaima has been around since prehistoric times,” he said, “and local legends depict humans as having been evolved from arapaima. But our efforts go beyond the arapaima. Turtles, manatees and other species have seen a boost in population.”
Campos-Silva has built “a close partnership with local associations and fishing leaders,” and “has a plan to save not only the arapima but with it the livelihoods, food supply, and culture of the indigenous communities who depend on the region’s rivers for survival,” Rolex shared in a statement. “I have shown local communities that they have rights,” he said. “In protecting the rivers and lakes, they can ensure the future of their own social security.”
Brian Gitta - Developing A Speedy Test for Malaria
In Uganda, people often have to wait days or even weeks to get the results of their malaria tests, delaying essential treatment. IT specialist Brian Gitta is determined to enable patients to access speedy treatments to lessen the impact of the disease.
His portable test device, the Matiscope, gives results within minutes and does not require a blood sample, instead it uses lights and magnets to identify the disease’s presence.
Building on its decades of support for expeditions and more recently, a growing focus on exploration for “a means to preserve the natural world,” Rolex has launched a new campaign in 2019, Perpetual Planet. The moniker is a nod to Rolex watches, that run perpetually with the wearer’s movement, and a fitting name for preserving our planet for the future. The campaign currently “embraces an enhanced partnership with National Geographic Society to study the impacts of climate change,” including the Rolex Awards for enterprise, and marine biologist explorer Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative to safeguard the oceans.
(Photography provided by Rolex)