Rolex, a firm supporter of explorers and individuals to discover more about planet Earth and to find ways to preserve the natural world, has launched the Perpetual Planet campaign this year to further its commitment to maintaining the well-being of our planet. One of the three key pillars of the campaign is the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, an award to foster entrepreneurship, advance human knowledge and protect our cultural heritage and the environment. (The other two are marine conservationist Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue initiative and Rolex's deepened partnership with the National Geographic Society.) After a few rounds of presentations and selection by an independent jury, five Laureates were unveiled in a ceremony in Washington in June. Here, two of the Laureates—Indian conservation scientist Krithi Karanth and French scientist Grégoire Courtine—reveal more about their projects and their ambitions to solving Earth's key challenges.
KRITHI KARANTH, 40
As the chief conservation scientist at the Centre for Wildlife Studies in India, she wants to reduce the friction between wildlife and people living near Indian national parks. Every year, there are numerous cases which see animals and humans clashing, resulting in collateral damage, injury and death on both sides. Karanth’s team aims to mitigate the situation by reducing threats, raising conservation awareness and providing education to local communities, as well as assisting with compensation claims through Wild Seve, a toll-free helpline.
We’ve implemented this system at a local level successfully and we want to scale it upwards. We are now in two of India’s premier parks, and we hope to move into six more parks. Fundamentally, the toll-free helpline can be systemised. What is more important: if someone calls, you have to show up at the scene soon after. We are happy to share this idea with anyone in the world, and use this structure to help other people.
— Krithi Karanth
GRÉGOIRE COURTINE, 44
An avid sportsman himself, the French scientist, who is an associate professor at the Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and a clinical investigator in the Department of Neurosurgery of the University Hospital of Vaud—both in Lausanne, Switzerland—has met many young people who have been paralysed due to serious sports injuries. Hence, he is developing an electronic “bridge” that will be implanted between the patient’s brain and lumbar spinal cord. The “bridge”, which is supported by wireless technology, will link brain signals controlling voluntary movement with electrical stimulation of the lower spinal cord—there is potential for this to encourage nerve regrowth and thus, restore control of the legs.
If treatment is started early, then there is a good chance of recovery. It will help the paralysed to walk and their nerve fibres to grow again, so an individual can walk without electrical stimulation.
— Grégoire Courtine
INTERESTING NUMBERS TO NOTE ABOUT THE ROLEX AWARDS FOR ENTERPRISE
34, 000 Number of applicants since the launch of the Rolex Awards in 1976
191 Number of countries represented by the applicants
150 Number of laureates selected
24 Age of the youngest laureate
74 Age of the oldest laureate