Biomimicry: The Greatest Concept You’ve Never Heard Of

Joshua Bird
3 min readApr 29, 2020

First off, I want to start by welcoming you to possibly the greatest concept you’ve never heard of, or it’s possible you’re not like me, and you know exactly what I am talking about. This concept I’m referring to is known as biomimicry. Biomimicry is a sustainable innovation inspired by nature. It is a concept built around valuing nature for what we can learn, not what we can extract, harvest, or domesticate.[5] It’s about using the natural processes that surround us for guidance and solutions, all while striving to put it back into nature.

Perhaps the biggest name in biomimicry is Janine Benyus. Janine is one of the world’s leading researchers in biomimicry. She is a natural history writer who has published five books, including “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature,” which popularized the term biomimicry and set the stage for worldwide innovation.[4]

Janine Benyus presents biomimicry TED talk [1]

Janine has inspired the world to look at the genius that surrounds us all and use it to benefit us in our everyday lives. An example of this is the bullet train. In 1989, Japanese engineers working on the Shinkansen bullet train were forced to find alternative methods into modifying the train due to the sonic booms it made exiting tunnels in dense-residential neighborhoods.

The solution? Birds. An engineer named Elji Nakatsu on the Shinkansen team was an avid bird watcher. He took inspiration from 3 different birds and applied them to modifying this train so it was faster and quieter. The Kingfisher, perhaps the most important inspiration of these birds, inspire the modified nose of the train. Kingfishers are able to dive down to water for prey without making a splash.[2]

The Shinkansen bullet train is just one example of biomimicry at work. There are more examples out there as well such as Galapagos Sharks and their microscopic scales that repel bacteria. These are being recreated for use on medical equipment. There are solar cells being created that are inspired by how leaves work that can provide compact, clean energy.[1] The list goes on and on.

However, this leads me to ask the question of why haven’t we taken more advantage of biomimicry? I think when answering this question, it is important to look at ourselves. We are a technology based society that are constantly on our devices and look for solutions through those devices. Humanity appreciates solutions that are efficient and provide us with the least amount of resistance.

Photo Courtesy of WebWatcher

Another reason is that the concept of biomimicry is still very new. I am a perfect example of this. I didn’t discover this concept till around 5 months ago. The idea is still very fresh to people.

It’s kind of crazy when you really think about it. The idea that nature, something that has existed for millions of years, can provide sustainable solutions to human problems. It’s even crazier that it took us this long to realize its benefits. If Janine Benyus and her team continue to inspire and produce examples of this novel concept, the world will have no choice to stop, put their devices down, and pay attention to the genius that is nature and the concept of biomimicry.