Why is biomimicry accelerating?

A fast-growing discipline with great potential, biomimicry is at the heart of the research work and innovation strategies of a vast and multidisciplinary ecosystem of labs, research centres, universities, large companies, start-ups, schools and universities throughout the world, and particularly in France. If biomimicry is experiencing a real boom because of its own assets, it is also because this approach resonates with a series of converging and promising, favourable and long-term factors to explain the development of this approach, today and tomorrow.

In its trend analysis and prospective work, NewCorp Conseil, which specialises in bio-inspired resilience strategies and is the initiator of the Biomim'expo event, proposes 12 economic, technical and societal factors to explain the rise of Biomimicry, which can be proposed as a new paradigm.

Life is 3.8 billion years of research and development, of continuous adaptations and optimisations, with an incredible genius and a breathtaking efficiency, which often surpasses us, impresses us, amazes us and sometimes even moves us when we are willing to pay attention to this encyclopaedia of life that surrounds us. Drawing inspiration from living things to innovate and re-create a harmonious and resilient development model makes biomimicry an approach at the confluence of science, ecology and philosophy. 

Through Biomimicry, nature (re)becomes a source of inspiration for research and innovation in all fields. Nature is no longer seen as a constraint or an exhaustible stock of materials, but as an inexhaustible source of genius and solutions to our contemporary challenges and issues. If this approach is developing today due to converging economic factors, it is already an old practice, implemented as early as the 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci, who designed the first models of flying machines by observing the flight of birds. It is moreover highly probable that from time immemorial, before perhaps a parenthesis of industrial development and rural exodus which disconnected us 'from the ground', nature has been a strong source of inspiration for man, and it is becoming so again today, no doubt out of necessity, but also out of desire. 

The American impulse

While taking inspiration from nature is probably as old as the hills, biomimicry has had a marketing and conceptual baptism in the United States (as it often does), thanks to biologist Janine Benyus

The Americans, who are often criticised for their environmental issues, are also often leaders in the emergence of these new trends. Although Janine Benyus did not 'invent' biomimicry, her book, "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature published in 1997 (translated into French in 2011) was undoubtedly a trigger and an accelerator. 

Although Jacques Livage was already talking about "soft chemistry" in 1977, i.e. 20 years before Benyus, it is this book and its author who have become the reference in the field, who have demonstrated and illustrated the interest of biomimicry in the service of sustainable development, federated its actors, and made emulators. 

It is also interesting to note that Janine Benyus is both a scientist ... and an entrepreneur through her consultancy activities, which no doubt contributed to the effectiveness of the work of education and influence that was carried out in order to be able to 'translate' it economically.

Today, other engines have been ignited to take over and intensify the dynamic, particularly in France, to federate the network, bring together and promote the sector, teach about biomimicry, and encourage and develop innovative projects.

The urgency 

What explains the renewed interest in this idea of a vital and model Nature is our climate, energy and biodiversity challenges, as regularly reminded by the IPCC and IPBES in particular.

Faced with impasses and anxieties, by proposing the living as a model for sustainable development, Biomimicry is proposed as a model for overcoming the crisisIt is a way out of a dead end, a renewal.

Nature is resilient, it is energy and material efficient, it works in a circular and local economy, ... 

Moreover, the virtue of our emergencies is to make us rediscover our community of destinies as a species, which must preserve its biotope in order to live, and nature is an obvious model for this, as a lesson in life for man.

More rationally, by proposing to save resources, biomimicry also proposes to business model which is of growing interest to companies seeking to improve their ecological and energy efficiency. It is a factor of competitiveness.

What is new is not biomimicry, but our challenges.

Reconciliation and CSR

The emergence of awareness of the possible reconciliation between economic development and respect for the environment is another major reason for the emergence of biomimicry. 

To stop opposing economics and ecology is an essential prerequisite for effectively overcoming constraint or dogma by revealing other fields of possibility. Biomimicry, by proposing a change in approach and outlook, succeeds in reconciling the issues.

The bio-inspired economy then becomes reconciling, the modus operandi of the sustainable economy.

For CSR strategies, bio-inspiration is a factor of impact reduction, or even better, a regenerative approach with a positive impact (energy, biodiversity, resources, etc.).

Scientific knowledge

Biomimicry is an approach based on science, which postulates the living as a model. As knowledge of life increases - and it is - the potential for 'lessons' and applications will multiply. Scientific publications related to biomimicry have accelerated extraordinarily over the past 15 years, and for the past five years applied innovations have been appearing every week. In addition to the growing volume, we are also seeing the emergence of another way of reading living organisms, to explain and describe the functional benefits that can be derived from their transposition to human activities.

By placing itself on scientific and rational ground, biomimicry has another considerable virtue, that ofavoid a dogmatic approachThis is a good thing after so many years of attempts at appropriation and political hijacking. 

Even though biomimicry has its subtleties, its 'families' and its currents of thought, the approach is intended to be apolitical, undoubtedly considering this non-partisan virtue as a guarantee of success. Therefore, combining respect for the environment, a shared vision of resources, collaborative work, technological innovation, competitiveness and development, biomimicry also undoubtedly achieves a political synthesis on environmental issues.

The media platform

Biomimicry has long been discussed in scientific and specialist media, but in recent months it has increasingly been included in general mediaThese include the TV news, JDD, La Tribune, M6, ARTE, Paris Match, Le Parisien, France Inter, Europe 1, Stratégies, Les Echos and La Croix, to name but a few. This is both a sign of the emergence of this approach and an accelerating factor... " media coverage ". 

In addition to these media forums, conferences on the subject are multiplying, as are exhibitions. Finally, political and public representatives are also beginning to take up the subject, to talk about it, and to promote it more and more in the future, given the services that biomimicry can provide to the issues of energy transition, but also pollution and public health.

Stories of bio-inspired innovations are fantastic, astonishing, captivating stories that appeal to all audiences; they speak to our pre-conscious, which is well aware of the amazing power and genius of the living, and therefore receptive; they are illustrated by the sublime beauty of nature; they also often tell the story of the research or entrepreneurial pathways of talented, passionate and charismatic men and women; they open up new perspectives. 

Biomimicry stories capture our attention because they also reassure us, they make us feel good. 

The multi-sectoral potential

Biomimicry is gaining momentum because it is of interest to all sectors of activity. All are concerned by current and potential applications. From 'historical' applications such as aeronautics with winglets inspired by the wings of birds of prey, transport and aerodynamics such as the nose of the Shinkansen train optimised thanks to the beak of the kingfisher, self-cleaning windows and paints resulting from the study of lotus leaves or the famous Velcro that we owe to Georges de Mestral inspired by burdock flowers... to the new generation of bio-inspired innovations such as the revolutionary Prophesee sensor, which saves data and energy and was inspired by the human retina; Tissium surgical adhesives made from a polymer inspired by the way marine organisms attach themselves; the Gecko Gripper textile, which adheres to the skin through the van der waals effect of the gecko's foot; agriculture via permaculture, agroforestry and agro-ecology; soil decontamination via mycoremediation or Claude Grison's metallivorous plants; wastewater treatment via phytodepuration; more resistant materials inspired by shellfish; energy via artificial photosynthesis; silent wind turbines with shapes inspired by the trailing edges of owl wings; the force of marine undulation, which inspires the Eel Energy tidal turbine, the Wavera or CorWave pumps or the FinX marine engine; the Hemarina discoveries, which make it possible to better preserve organ transplants thanks to marine worms; the fight against muscular atrophy, which comes from the study of bear hibernation; and the self-ventilation of buildings as an alternative to energy-guzzling air-conditioning, inspired by termite mounds; the lightening of buildings from bone structures; C02-fixing bio-cement inspired by coral; hyper-resistant textile fibres from the synthesis of spider silk; sponge cities to combat the risk of flooding; substitutes for insecticides by sexual confusion inspired by pheromones... Nature's genius is omnipresent, as are its applications. 

The quest for innovation and added value

The need to constantly innovate, to break out of silos and preformatted thinking, to find scientific and technological breakthroughs is another explanation for the interest in this approach, which aims to more horizontal than vertical, and above all multidisciplinary. As the popular saying goes "electricity was not invented by perfecting the candle" ... tomorrow's world will not be the same as today's, improved at the margins, and creativity will come from the ability to mix knowledge and angles. 

Biomimicry helps to look differently for "other ideasIn this way, it is helping to shape the world of tomorrow, another world inspired by the world.

Today, there are no more reserved areas, innovation can come from anywhere and everywhere, from related fields of activity, from cross-fertilisation, from emulation... and all this is happening more and more quickly. 

By proposing other fields of exploration, other ways of thinking and a particular methodological approach, biomimicry is placed at the service of innovation.

The "Biomim Deeptech" that Biomim'Invest intends to promote and develop is already 400 million in fundraising for entrepreneurs of bio-inspired innovations with impact, and about fifty financial partners.

The technological leap 

Biomimicry is also accelerating due to a technological leap with - among others - nanoscience which allow us to observe and understand at a level never before achieved; or with additive printing, which makes it possible to reproduce living structures that were previously inaccessible. 

The same multi-functional benefits can be achieved by manufacturing structures that are similar to those of living organisms. 

Biomimicry is not just about observing structures (it is also about shapes and ecosystems), but we have to recognise that this new ability to observe at the finest level is extraordinarily productive and disruptive.

The "how"

After the pedagogy of "why" we have to change, Biomimicry teaches the 'how'.And that changes everything. 

Awareness of environmental issues in recent years has very often been anxiety-provoking, sometimes moralising or incantatory, and rarely demonstrative of solutions. The result has been a form of psychological denial, and perhaps even a strengthening of climate scepticism, as human nature does not appreciate being confronted with its responsibilities and problems without solutions. 

Biomimicry is interesting and comforting because it shows a new field of possibility rather than a wall of challenges. Biomimicry provides solutions to solve our problems and makes nature an ally, a powerful force for the future of humanity.

Values and re-enchantment

The success of biomimicry is also based on values in resonance with the expectations of our time. 

Humility, respect, sharing, modesty, simplicity, spirituality, ... biomimicry is perhaps even in response with our timesThis echoes the return of common sense and the arrival of a form of ecological maturity. 

Biomimicry is also about reenchanting the way we look at our environment and the biodiversity that surrounds us, a tool for rediscovery, and no longer a proud vision of a so-called supremacy of man over nature.

Interdisciplinarity and Collective Intelligence

Biomimicry is a fundamentally interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and multicultural approach, which values exchanges, telescoping and shared thinking. Certain ways of thinking (industrial, scientific, political) are leading to dead ends today. Innovation will be choralIt will be achieved through the confrontation of points of view and reflexes, through mutual enrichment, through opportunism and curiosity, through group intelligence. 

While biomimicry proposes to draw inspiration from nature, it also requires knowing how to draw inspiration from others. For this reason, the "biomimicry sector" is being structured, the players are meeting, major groups are emerging, start-ups are emerging, Ceebios is being launched, Biomim'expo is being created...

Our era needs reconnections, between Man and Nature of course, but also between our own spheres, between research and industry, between ecology and the economy, between large groups and start-ups, between biologists and engineers ... these spheres need to speak to each other better, to listen to each other, to exchange. Our sectoral, disciplinary and community 'languages' are our new Towers of Babel, isolating us at a time when we should be reconnecting, including with ourselves, to build and invent together.

The living world has an innate form of 'resilience intelligence' through its ability to create symbiotic approaches, with positive and beneficial interdependencies.

Mobilisation, bottom up and pride 

Biomimicry is often a bottom-up approach in organisations, starting with men and womenThis is the result of the work of a number of teams, research projects, experiments and personal convictions, which are then passed on to the structures. 

Biomimicry is not a communication posture, in the all too often negative sense of this allegation, it is a human, personal, sometimes intimate and spiritual approach, often passionate, carried by the strength of convictions.

Feedback and testimonies show that pride of belonging and satisfaction of teams working on bio-inspired approaches. In this sense, it is also a management, internal communication and mobilisation tool.

Alain Renaudin, president and founder of NewCorp Conseil, founder of Biomim'expo.

Biomim Factor 12