What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry is the design and production of material, structures and systems modelled on nature. It is not a new science, humans have been learning from nature for millennia. More recently, however, as human societies become ever more unsustainable, biomimicry has emerged as a valuable approach to finding solutions to some of humanities most challenging environmental issues.

Biomimicry is not simply copying nature (biomorphism) or connecting more deeply with nature (biophilia), although both are beneficial. It is observing how nature achieves certain tasks and processes, and then applying the same strategies to human-design challenges. The Wright brothers did this by observing Turkey Vultures and adapted their prototype airplanes. Businesses today are observing how some corals create a hard skeleton and using this insight to manufacture low carbon concrete. And others are observing how ants solve complex communication issues using simple rules and applying it to parcel delivery networks.

Stage One - introducing biomimicry & defining your challenge

The first stage in a design process is to define the problem or opportunity you want your design to address. It helps to set the goal you want your design to deliver and any factors you will need to consider. Critical in this stage, is to consider the context your design will operate in and the functions (purpose) it needs to deliver.

This PowerPoint presentation introduces biomimicry and key aspects of the challenge, includes slides notes.

Activities and Worksheets:

Useful resources:

Useful videos:

  • Excellent introduction to biomimicry thinking by founder Janine Benyus (7 min) - link.
  • A longer (20 min) video from the Biomimicry Institute about biomimicry as a pathway for design - link.
  • The importance of biomimicry in education by Sam Stier (2 min) - link.
  • Many more videos from the Biomimicry Institute YouTube channel.

Stage Two - asking nature

In the second stage, we explore how nature could provide solutions to our design challenge. We can ask how nature provides similar functions which we can learn from.A lot of research has already been carried out which you can use, and it is also helpful to observe  nature first-hand to get more inspiration.

Activities and Worksheets:

Useful websites:

Useful videos:

  • Biomimicry function and strategy; includes nice examples of functions in nature and asking good questions - link.
  • Explanation of the function card activity - link.

Stage Three - your design solution

In the final stage, we combine insights from nature with our design challenge. How can biomimicry make our solution better and more sustainable? Think about how to present your design solution so that it demonstrates how biomimicry has helped you. Complete the biomimicry evaluation wheel to reflect on and improve your ideas.

Activities and Worksheets:

Further help and support

Please contact Richard Dawson with any questions or queries.

Email: biolearn@wild-awake.org