The Biomimicry Institute, an American NGO, was founded in 2006 by the biologist Janine Benyus, one of the first people to coin the term “biomimicry”, and by the social entrepreneur Bryony Schwan. The Institute aims to promote bio-inspiration as a tool for the production of sustainable goods and services.
The NGO, which primarily targets innovators (entrepreneurs, designers, etc.) and teachers (researchers, professors, etc.) and is also backed by a consulting firm, Biomimicry 3.8*, which delivers training and support programmes to promote the inclusion of the living world in the creation of value. SUEZ met the biologist Megan Schuknecht, Director of the “Design Challenges” at the Biomimicry Institute.
How do you promote biomimicry to audiences of innovators and entrepreneurs?
First, we encourage all our audiences to look at how biology can shape design. The ultimate goal is to encourage the development of bio-inspired solutions that address the major issues related to sustainable development.
Our programmes focus on education and entrepreneurship. We offer courses or training for school and university students and teachers in the fields of design, science, technology, creativity and project design methods. Finally, we created “Youth and Global Design Challenges” that reward sustainable initiatives inspired by nature. We also support start-ups through a “Launchpad”, which is the only start-up accelerator in the world that promotes the marketing of biomimetic or bio-inspired solutions. Our AskNature web portal helps everyone intuitively gain access to knowledge of biology by offering a library of biological “strategies” organised by function, ideas for inspiration and teaching materials. So we have multiple impacts. Our efforts have given birth to around 30 local networks over the world, plus a network of several thousand teachers who have incorporated biomimicry in their courses.
Our design challenges and our incubation programme have supported or led to the creation of numerous companies. Examples include Biofractal, a consulting firm in bio-inspiration in Mexico, and New York-based Nexloop, which designs biomimetic systems that capture water in the atmosphere for urban agriculture. But also Mangrove Still and BioCultivator, two teams taking part in a large-scale project in Greece to create a sustainable closed-loop community water system.