Rolex Names The Five Winners of the 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise

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.

By Hyla Bauer
Contributor & Special 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. 

The five finalists for the 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise

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.”

Krithi Karanth at Channagundi in Karnataka State, India
A photo from a drone shows the border of a national park
Only four percent of India’s land is protected, and the country’s largest and most dangerous animals pose a threat Krithi Karanth, Conservation Scientist

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.

Banana farmer Prasanna Kumar (left) describes to Krithi Karanth how his crop

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.

Miranda Wang

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.

Tons of waste sorted at Greenwaste Recovery, San José, California ©Rolex/Bart Mi

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.

Grégoire Courtine’s research has been published in leading journals,

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.

Patient Mathieur Bauvez

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.”

Near Carauari in the Amazon, part of the vast region whose people and wildlife J
Uacari is part of the huge state of Amazonas, almost entirely covered by the Ama

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.”

Joao Campos-Silva holding an average sized Arapaima of about 60kg.

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.

Brian Gitta in Kampala, capital of Uganda, which has 4 per
We have made huge advances in and improvements in medication for malaria, Now we need to speed up the diagnosis. Brian Gitta , IT Specialist

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. 

Patients in the waiting room at Kawaala Health Centre, Uganda

Perpetual Planet

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.

James Cameron

(Photography provided by Rolex)

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