Biologically-inspired Innovation in Large Companies: a Path for Corporate Participation in Biophysical Systems?

Biologically-inspired Innovation in Large Companies: a Path for Corporate Participation in Biophysical Systems?

T.L. Mead

Centre for Innovation and Service Research, School of Business, University of Exeter, UK

30 September 2014
| Citation



The use of Biologically-Inspired Design (BID) has become increasingly prominent as an innovation tool for sustainability in large corporations. This research, from the perspective of innovation management and organizational development, explores the use of BID as a tool for corporate sustainability at multiple levels and reflects on the implications for corporate sustainability agendas. The review of the literature analyses the history of BID in a broad sense, both with and without sustainability objectives, and disambiguates several aspects of the field that have been largely overlooked in the popular media. Many corporate managers are utilizing the methods and tools of BID with little understanding of how they may or may not connect to corporate sustainability objectives of the organization. This research aims to bring this to light and create a much-needed critical dialogue around the use of BID for sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). A four-tiered model is used to frame the use of BID in this setting and existing case studies are used to test the model.  Research outcomes include creating a framework for understanding how BID can be used to inform innovative solutions within the product, process, organizational and systems-levels by embedding sustainability criteria at each level using various biological models. The aim of this research is not to simply deconstruct BID, but rather to create a dialogue amongst sustainability practitioners, corporate professionals and academics that increases the robustness of the tool for use in achieving sustainability goals and objectives.


biomimicry, Biologically-Inspired Design, Biomimetics, Corporate Sustainability, Sustainability-Oriented Innovation


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