Can Bioinspired Innovations Find Economic Footing?
Success stories in “bioinspired” products have captivated the imagination: a low-toxicity composite wood binder imitating a compound used by mussels, self-cleaning surfaces that mimic the lotus flower, and more. But can such innovations transcend small-scale tinkering and have a bigger impact? Yes, says Terrapin Bright Green, in a new report produced with support from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Bioinspired innovation encompasses both biomimcry (employing ideas from the natural world for human design) and bioutilization (directly using organisms or their materials). Tapping into Nature: The Future of Energy, Innovation, and Business is divided into life-inspired sections that explore topics like carbon, energy conversion and storage, thermoregulation, and fluid dynamics. In each category are bioinspired products across the spectrum from concept to market.
Examples include polymers that sequester carbon (Converge Polyols), a building management system that mimics the communication of bees to reduce energy use during peak demand hours (Swarm Energy Management), and film designed to increase photovoltaic performance (Moth Eye Anti-Reflective Film).
The report estimates that by 2030 the bioinspired sector will account for $425 million of the U.S. gross domestic product and create two million jobs. Terrapin partner Chris Garvin remarked at the report’s release, “We believe that bioinspiration is the next transformative opportunity for companies looking to innovate and organizations looking to transition to a regenerative economy.”
Published June 1, 2015