Biomimetics: A Simple Foundation Will Lead to New Insight About Process

Biomimetics: A Simple Foundation Will Lead to New Insight About Process

S. Jacobs

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Canada

30 June 2014
| Citation



From Bionics and Biomimetics to Biomimicry, these terms have been used to describe the transfer of knowledge from biology to other disciplines. They have been poorly defined and inappropriate uses are becoming more frequent. In addition, the organization of the framework for describing biological innovations is being developed in such a way as to reduce access to biological innovation. A need for clarification and the development of a rigorous method still exist. An analysis of the frequency of use of the terms associated with mimicking biological models reveals that biomimetics is more widely used than biomimicry, but it is unclear whether these terms are being used uniformly or accurately. The following definition of biomimetics is proposed: ‘the study of biological functions, its forms, processes, and interactions for the purpose of solving analogous human problems’, and it is suggested that biomimicry be reserved to describe sustainable biomimetics. Two case studies are presented on products widely claimed to be examples of biomimicry that do not meet the criteria for the definition of biomimetic presented here. They are discussed in the context of biological function. Biomimetic research activities are often organized into ‘levels’ – Shape, Process, and Ecosystem – suggesting a hierarchy. Here, it is proposed that these levels be referred to as ‘types’ nested within Function and be called: Form, Process, and Interaction. A classification system based upon the number of types of biomimetics that are incorporated into the innovation is also described. This simple framework will permit the study of biomimetic activity ‘in the wild’ as it currently exists so that it will better inform the development of a more rigorous process.


biomimetics, biomimicry, bionic, bio-inspiration, innovation inspired by nature


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