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Biomimicry: drawing inspiration from nature for sustainable innovation

Biomimicry: drawing inspiration from nature for sustainable innovation

Type of text : Opinion and report
Type of referral : Own initiative
Working group : Section for Environment

Rapporteur(s) :

Patricia RICARD
Qualified Individuals Group
Date adopted : 09/09/2015 | Period : 2010-2015

Seeking inspiration in nature is not a new concept; in fact, it is something that has featured regularly right throughout the history of humanity. Imitating nature for the purposes of sustainable innovation, however, is a concept that has truly taken on its full meaning now that France is committing to a transition with both energy-related and ecological aspects, and it is this goal that is behind the concept of biomimicry.

 

This approach encourages man to draw upon the multiple sources of inspiration that nature can offer, be it in terms of form, substance or even eco-systems. It provides an opportunity to observe solutions that have been developed and perfected by living organisms over the course of the evolutionary process with a view to reproducing them in a way that makes it easier to resolve the problems facing human societies and to enable them to satisfy their own needs whilst at the same time limiting material and energy consumption. Biomimicry is one of the tools we can use to promote sustainable development.

  • Biomimicry has a wide and diverse variety of applications in the scientific, technical and industrial spheres; indeed, from agriculture to industry and even architecture, this field would appear to offer great potential with regard to innovation and the creation of economic activity. Whilst there is now a framework for innovation that incorporates an environmental aspect in  place both in France and at European level, as well as a number of tools available to economic players and from which biomimicry could benefit, there remain certain obstacles with regard to its expansion. The present opinion aims to put forward potential solutions for overcoming these and further developing the field. 

 

The three sources of inspiration for the biomimetic approach.

  • Forms:

Source of inspiration: marine animals with undulating bodies or fins that enable them to get around.

Accomplishment: an undulating membrane designed to produce electricity using the energy provided by fluid pressure(currently at the trial stage).

 

  • Processes and materials:

Sources of inspiration: the spider’s yarn and the mussel’s byssus.

Achievements: exploitation of mechanical properties to produce new, highly resistant and elasticated materials, suture threads that can be used in liquid environments, glues for medical or industrial use, etc.

 

  • Eco-systems:

Sources of inspiration: the ability of certain fungi to absorb the metals contained in the soil, such as lead and cadmium, or to destroy hydrocarbons.

Achievements: requalification and restoration of polluted soil and reuse of the organic matter produced in accordance with principles that closely resemble those of the circular economy and industrial ecology whilst optimising flows in a way that reflects how eco-systems work.