By Maximilian Clarke

How can you sterilise without the use of antibiotics? How can you clean without detergent; and how can you keep a building cool without energy intensive air conditioning?

The answers lie not in extensive research and development, but can be found throughout the natural world where optimal solutions to innumerate challenges have been developed and tested through billions of years of evolution. And by observing and replicating nature’s tried and tested solutions it is possible apply them to technology.

This concept of imitating nature to find solutions to everyday problems and to fuel innovation in a way that is cyclical, sustainable, and makes use of abundant natural resources, is known as biomimicry. Already businesses and researchers from across the world are applying lessons learnt from nature to a diverse range of applications.

Speaking at Dassault Systems’ European Customer Forum in Paris, author and biological innovator Janine Beynus touched upon just a few of the burgeoning number of businesses embracing biomimicry.

Calera, a Californian enterprise have observed how corals are able to synthesise a cement from seawater and carbon dioxide: two abundant and inexpensive materials that may one day be able to replace the environmentally destructive practice of cement manufacture.

Another team of researchers in Holland have seen how the Galapagos shark maintains a skin free from bacteria solely from the shape of its scales, which make it impossible for bacteria to grow. By applying the concept to hospital fixtures, heavy use of antibiotics could be avoided, minimising the spread of resistant ‘superbugs’ including MRSA.

Innovating businesses of all sizes, Beynus suggests, should appoint biologists to their design boards so that they may benefit from nature’s inexpensive and sustainable solutions.

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