Rob Lichty
MEDdesign

Biomimicry – Design Inspired by Nature

By Rob Lichty
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Rob Lichty

Nature has already figured out a way, which can give you an edge over the competition, help you save time and money, open doors to ‘Blue Ocean’ markets, and be effective, efficient and sustainable.

Biomimcry is much the way is it sounds.  As the kid’s song on Biomimcry by Amy Martin on her album Ask the Planet, says:  “Bio means ‘life’; mimicry means to ‘imitate.’”  I like to define Biomimcry as “the study of nature to solve human problems.”

Although humans have been watching and learning from nature for a long time there seems to be a growing disconnect. When you think of the Wright brothers do you think of birds? When you peel apart two halves of Velcro do you think of weed seeds sticking to your pants leg? Probably not!

So, when Janine M. Benyus wrote her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature in 1997 and coined the word “Biomimcry,” a revival in acknowledging the role of nature in the developments of human kind began to occur. Simultaneously, people began to lend an ear toward nature’s whispers of astuteness and a rekindling of nature’s inspiration began to unfold.

Why would anyone be interested in studying nature to solve modern technical problems in design, engineering, or business management? Talk to someone in the Pharmacological business about the history of their discipline. Talk to Speedo about their record breaking swimsuits in the 2008 Olympics. Talk to Pax Scientific about their blade technology. Ask Columbia Forest Products about their plywood glue. The list of products, technologies and methods currently derived from natural organisms and ecosystems is staggering. The numbers are continually growing and having far reaching effects into every aspect of human life and business. I cannot begin to tell you about all the cool stuff out there in a single blog; for a small taste, I suggest you peruse the www.asknature.org website.

Biomimcry is a multidisciplinary hard science that takes advantage of millions of organisms and nearly four billion years of real life Research and Development where the losers die and the winners procreate.  Many proponents of Biomimcry don’t spend the time to talk to those who believe in theology rather than science, but if you are of a religious mindset, what better way to find answers to your questions than to intimately study God’s creations?

I’ll give you my personal opinion of some major advantages of Biomimicry:

  • It gives businesses an extra edge on the competition because nature does not necessarily think like a human nor have their constraints. The concepts/ideas/methods developed would, most likely, not be thought of by the competition.
  • Nature has already spent a lot of time on its own developing solutions to its problems. If you spent the time and energy to look at what the worlds organisms have already accomplished, there is a very good chance that you will save a lot of time and money as compared to doing it all on your own.
  • Because nature is so good at developing multifunctional designs there is a higher likelihood that your final solution will open up the doors to adjacent or new (sometimes known as “Blue Ocean technologies”) niche markets.
  • Solutions repeated over and over by nature in different organism are typically effective, efficient and sustainable.

How does ‘Biomimicry’ differ from ‘bio-inspired?’  The major difference is Biomimcry’s guiding principles that are aptly called “Life’s Principles,” which help us to deeply decipher what nature is doing and why it is doing it.  They give us guidance to how nature develops effective solutions while creating conditions conducive to life.  I believe it would be advantageous to delve deeper into these Principles in later blogs.

General topics I will cover in future blogs are:

  • More on what Biomimicry is;
  • Examples of Biomimcry/Bio-inspired technologies particularly focused toward the medical device industry;
  • Interviews with others who are researching and developing new technologies based on natural organisms;
  • Reviews of interesting organisms and what they do with possible ways they can help you; and
  • Most importantly, answer your questions as best as I possibly can or find those who can answer them more appropriately.

Until next time,

Rob Lichty

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Rob Lichty

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