Changing Planet

Finalists Named for 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Twenty-two young innovators from as far afield as Bangladesh and Fiji have been named as finalists in the 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, it was announced in Geneva today.

Eight distinguished scientists, environmentalists, conservationists and social entrepreneurs, who comprise the independent, multidisciplinary Rolex judging panel, will meet in Geneva in mid-April to select five Young Laureates from among the 22 projects. The winners will be announced on 24 June and honored at a ceremony later this year.

Each of the five Young Laureates receives 50,000 Swiss francs (U.S. $57,000) to further their work, a Rolex chronometer and ongoing publicity. Each has access to the network of more than 100 previous Laureates.

“Chosen from more than 1,800 applicants in a stringent pre-selection process, these 22 young pioneers, who come from 13 countries worldwide, have demonstrated their determination to solve some of society’s greatest challenges in five general areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural heritage,” the Rolex Awards said in a news statement.

“The spirit of enterprise is vibrantly alive. We are deeply impressed with the ingenuity and perseverance of the younger generation as they  pursue their goals to expand knowledge and solve some of the daunting problems of the 21st century,” said Rebecca Irvin, head of Rolex philanthropy.

“Each of the 22 finalists has the credentials and fortitude to become a Young Laureate. Their projects range broadly from engaging local communities in promoting biodiversity in Brazil and countering snake bites in India, to advancing solar energy in developing countries, documenting indigenous knowledge in Canada and creating novel electronic tablets for uses from conserving coral reefs in Hawaii to reducing the rate of cardiovascular disease in the Cameroons and beyond.”

The 2014 finalists are:

Andie Ang
Proposal: Reconnect Indochinese silvered langur populations in Vietnam with aerial bridges to permit breeding between fragmented populations, strengthening the gene pool and increasing the likelihood of their survival.

John Burns
United States
Proposal: Develop novel, underwater electronic tablets to promote community-based monitoring and conservation of coral reef ecosystems in Hawaii where the coastal populations depend on marine resources.

Marita Cheng
Proposal: Develop an easily mounted, smartphone-controlled robot arm for disabled people who use wheelchairs as a result of spinal injuries or debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Rafael Morais Chiaravalloti
Proposal: Apply community-based mapping that will enable locals, conservationists and tourist operators to create a sustainable management plan for the western border of Brazil’s Pantanal wetland.

Sayam Chowdhury
Proposal: Curtail hunting and poaching of endangered wildlife in three fragile ecosystems of Bangladesh by involving the local community and educating them about the benefits of conservation.

Eden Full
Proposal: Advance solar energy in developing countries by promoting a solar-tracking device that generates more electricity than a stationary solar panel and filters water at the same time.

Medhavi Gandhi
Proposal: Revive and preserve the traditional arts, crafts and culture of Indian tribes to help alleviate poverty through the development of creative, sustainable businesses.

Neeti Kailas
Proposal: Develop a unique system to carry out early and mass screenings of newborns in resource-poor settings to monitor hearing loss and prevent the consequent loss of speech.

Divya Karnad
Proposal: Build a sustainable fisheries model in India by bridging the divide between seafood producers and consumers through conservation programmes linking the community with fishermen.

Yashraj Khaitan
Proposal: Develop cutting-edge, smart-grid technology to make rural power distribution more efficient, reliable and economically sustainable.

David Lang
United States
Proposal: Support a global community of professional and amateur ocean explorers who collaborate to create innovative tools such as low-cost underwater robots for citizen exploration and science.

Jeffrey Marlow
United States
Proposal: Launch schoolchildren worldwide on a journey of discovery by involving them in the science behind NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover and educating them about space exploration and astrobiology.

Sarah McNair-Landry
Proposal: Circumnavigate Canada’s Baffin Island, the world’s fifth largest island, to collect and document the dog-sledding knowledge of the Inuit communities before it is lost forever.

Soham Mukherjee
Proposal: Educate and train rural communities in India’s Gujarat state to prevent venomous snakebites  and administer appropriate  first-aid.

Olivier Nsengimana
Proposal: Save Rwanda’s Grey Crowned Crane, which faces increasing threats to its habitat and a growing illegal trade, in order to conserve Rwanda’s biodiversity.

Akosita Rokomate
Proposal: Encourage sustainable management of natural resources in Fiji’s Kia Island, a part of the Great Sea Reef, a biodiversity hotspot, by incentivizing the community to practise long-term conservation.

Gerardo Ruiz de Teresa
Proposal: Install solar-energy systems to eradicate energy poverty in Mexico’s rural communities and create employment.

Francesco Sauro
Proposal: Lead a multidisciplinary team of scientists to explore ancient quartzite caves in table-top mountains between Venezuela and Brazil and uncover the secrets behind the landscape’s evolution.

Livio Valenti
Proposal: Use silk biomaterials to create a heat-stable polio vaccine that does not require refrigeration and can efficiently reach people living in remote areas of the world.

Nathalie Vlcek
Proposal: Document and revitalize the endangered Tuyuka language, spoken by 20 indigenous communities in Brazil and Colombia, and engage the people in composing a theme-based dictionary of their language.

Arthur Zang
Proposal: Reduce the rate of cardiovascular-disease mortality in countries with a shortage of cardiologists by using a Cardio-pad medical tablet to perform cardiac examinations and remote interpretations.

Hosam Zowawi
Saudi Arabia
Proposal: Develop faster laboratory tests for superbugs and raise awareness of antibiotic resistance in the Gulf States through an education campaign.

This is the second series in the program’s nearly four-decade history dedicated exclusively to visionaries under the age of 30, and the first of the Young Laureate editions with an open application system, Rolex said in its statement.

“The biennial Rolex Awards were begun in 1976 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the waterproof Rolex Oyster chronometer, a milestone in watchmaking, and invest in individuals worldwide who have the courage and conviction to carry out groundbreaking projects to benefit humankind and the planet in areas generally encompassing science, the environment, exploration and cultural heritage. In 2009, Rolex decided to encourage the next generation of leaders by dedicating every second series of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise to young innovators between the ages of 18 to 30 – the Young Laureates.”

For further information on the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, visit:

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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