I was recently introduced to a new field called biomimicry, which I think is an incredible tool for solving problems and changing the way companies do business. We are lucky here in San Diego because we actually have a Biomimicry Institute affiliated with our world famous zoo. According to the institute’s website, “Biomimicry is the science and art of emulating Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems.” These ‘problems’ can range from process innovations to product design. The amazing side benefit of natural process design is that biomimicked products and practices are quite sustainable.
So this is all great in theory, but can biomimicry actually be profitable?
In a word: Yes. There have been many advances in materials design linked to biomimicry. For example, self-cleaning surfaces that mimic the beading of water off certain leaves were recently inspired using biomimicry. These surfaces have the added benefit of reducing the need for harmful chemical cleaners. Building design is another area where nature has been inspiring. Termite mounds use tunnels and venting to keep the temperature cool in their hot, dessert homes. Architects have used these techniques to do the same–saving the monetary and environmental cost of heating and cooling.
Asknature.org is an entire database of natural processes that can serve as inspiration to product design. Type the word “urban planning” into the database and an entry pops up describing the usefulness of radiating lines found in sea urchins for city planning. Radiating lines minimize the distance from the center, facilitating transportation to the outlying points–add branching, similar to the human circulatory system, and you have a highly efficient transportation grid.
I encourage anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit to have a look at some of these websites–you might stumble upon the next big thing. Just be sure to thank mother nature!