innovation from nature


 

Taking inspiration from nature and using it an innovation tool has used many names over the years. Some have proved more popular than others, be it bionics, biomimetics, biomimicry, nature-inspired, bio-inspired or biognosis  they all look to nature for the generation of new ideas. What they represent is a new type of design philosophy, one focusing on the natural world.

 

 

We can look to Leonardo Da Vinci as one of the earliest and most well-known innovators. Many of this 15th-century polymath's inventions took inspiration from natural phenomena and his subsequent biological studies.

For example, Da Vinci’s design for a flying machine was inspired by his research of wings and bird flight, while the plans for a parachute and a helicopter resulted from his observations of seed pods and flowers falling from trees.

 

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."

Albert Einstein

 

From the mid-to-late 20th century, mimicking nature has come to the forefront as we look to find innovative solutions to human challenges. The development of natural sciences and our understanding of the natural world, combined with the improvements to communication technology and access to information have all helped to bring nature-inspired problem solving to the forefront in the 21st century. 

This radical shift is aligned as we are looking for new direction for our social, economic, ecological and environmental futures.

 

Heat - Control of fire and regulation of temperature.

Beat - Creation and shaping of metalized alloys. 

Treat - Development of chemical treatments.

Until the industrial revolution, our way of life centred on our connection to the natural world. The two were in harmony. Control of fire led to the seismic shift away from this and towards controlling the natural world while maximising these resources for our means. This led to the Industrial Revolution and the control of fire, development of metal alloys and the use of man-made chemicals in our never-ending quest for more complex materials and processes.

We are now reaching a tipping point where many of our natural resources and becoming scarce, or costs of sourcing is becoming less cost-effective. Coupled with environmental pollution and our understanding of the damages to our planet’s ecosystems, we need to shift away from our old ways of thinking. This is leading to a shift in mindset to discover new methods of minimising waste, generating power and adapting to changing conditions on earth.

Why look to nature for innovation?
Through almost 4 billions of years of evolution, the natural world has developed strategies to solve complex problems that humans are only just understanding. Be it self-healing capabilities, lightweight materials, manufacturing at ambient temperatures and self-assembly, the natural world has the potential.

 


 

Nature-inspired Idea Generator

Billions of potential solutions can be seen in the natural world. The challenge is to know how to use these for innovative solutions. 

Questions like, how does nature make things? How does it process information? How does it recycle materials? How does it repair itself? These are some of the many questions, designer and scientists are searching from when looking to nature.

Industry-push (top down)

Research-led (bottom-up)

Identifying a problem with our technology and ways to overcome this by looking to the nature.

Observing an interesting biological strategy and find a way to create a new prodcut or service from this.

 

"…one of the basic features of living systems is the appearance of autonomy or independence of action, with a degree of unexpectedness directly related to the complexity of the living system. This gives living systems great adaptability and versatility, but at the expense of the predictability of the system’s behaviour by an external observer. In general, we do not accept unpredictability in technical systems; indeed, we avoid it." 

- Julian Vincent

For more examples inspired by nature, please see our homepage.


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