How Nature Inspires Design — Biomimicry

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Scflores
Dec 10, 2019 · 5 min read

By: Stephanie Flores, December 9, 2019

How could we use biomimicry to improve administration in health care?

Biomimicry has the potential of helping administration in healthcare move forward with the goal of providing unparalleled sustainability of performance. The idea is improvement and progress. Evolution exhibits itself through organisms changing and adapting in a way that allows for their survival as the environment around them changes. Therefore, humans too experience the need to adapt as society’s needs change over time. There is information on biomimicry having an impact in the health care industry as far as skin-related ailments go, certain medical equipment, and it offers much promise for further innovations that will continue to help health care in different ways.

What exactly is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry (explained with drawings and examples)

Bio = life

Mimicry = imitation

Biomimicry, also known as biomimetics is the practice of learning from nature, imitating its forms and processes to solve problems humans face today. Biomimicry plays an auspicious role in innovation.

There are “more than 30 million species and their ecosystems” that have graced the earth from which there is endless material and information that can be learned from. “Biomimicry considers animals, plants, and microbes as exemplary engineering models, and various biological inspiration levels can be used to identify application analogies.” (FutureBridge)

The concept conveys the resurfacing question, “How has nature already solved this” and what can I learn from it accordingly?

Let’s see how Biomimicry has been used thus far

A report developed by the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute shows this field growing increasingly. It estimates that “bioinspired innovation could account for approximately $425 billion of the U.S. GDP by 2030 (valued in 2013 dollars).” The Institute expects biomimicry to impact the “construction, cement and concrete, chemical manufacturing, and power generation, distribution, and storage industries.” (Biomimicry Institute)

Some examples of how it is used today, showing its impact & relevance

  • kingfisher beak — has partaken in projects for low resistance/ less noise
  • whale edged fins — used to create turbine blades
  • burrs of burdock — Velcro manufacturing
  • Shark skin, cicada wings — antibacterial properties for topical and protection

*Check out this Interactive link of current activity in bioinspired innovation:

Click Here

Importance & outlook in today’s climate

Our current society is fast-moving and health care is an industry that has no choice but to keep up with the demands involving caring for people’s overall well-being.

Nature itself has developed more than 3 billion years of material, footprint, and working systems that continue to evolve in ways that will provide answers for us in the long run.

(Great Lakes Biomimicry, 2019)
(Biomimicry Institute, 2019)

Examples of the potential Biomimicry has to offer

  • shark teeth— dental material
  • oyster shell protein — diaper material
  • insect cuticle — wound sutures
  • elephant trunk — bone strength/ support/ flexibility

Challenges Biomimicry faces currently

There is a gap between biology and the technology to design the processes aimed for. More research still needs to be done to find ways to incorporate biomimicry into a working business model. The research needs to be tested as well to determine effectiveness as well as any risks posed. This takes time and takes up large amounts of financial resources that are not readily available. Finding a design that works in this case for health care administration and improvement in communication systems requires a planning team of interdisciplinary teams including those in health care and those in biomimicry research.

How Biomimicry can improve administration in health care

As far as healthcare administration goes, there are always a number of systems ensuring institutions run smoothly. These include teams of humans in administrative positions making the ultimate policy, and structural decisions. The Biomimicry Institute introduced the Swarm Energy Management Systems, which were inspired by bee communications. These essentially produced the “cutting of peak energy demand of building heating and cooling systems. (Biomimicry Institute, 2015) The foundational biomimetics of this could help set a structural environment that enhances air quality or improve one’s ability to be more productive when feeling more comfortable in their building.

As far as communication goes, Dr. Peter Pronovost, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at UH Venture tech transfer suggests that instead of companies operating by what the “loudest voice in the room” says, they should follow the bee colony example. “The Queen sends her drones to find the perfect home and, depending on how much they wiggle their bottoms determines which hive will get picked — after the other drones go in and give a second opinion.” (Lefkowitz, 2019) This somewhat reflects the Swarm Learning dynamic our professor, Dr. Jamie Schwandt has provided for our course in which each student gave feedback as we progressed through the class. The idea is the curriculum could be modified and enhanced accordingly. The bees showed a more equitably collaborative and more productive way of making a decision that ensures more than one team member has say. This is something that can contribute to healthcare administration as larger decisions and more sensitive topics need to be handled with the utmost care and consideration. The last remark from Dr. Peter Pronovost that left an auspicious remark regarding company communication is that “we need to be more like Aspens than like Maple trees” because “a grove of Aspen trees form a line of communication through a singular root system.” His main point was it is better and more conducive to be more open-minded and humble enough to learn from others. (Lefkowitz, 2019)

Another example of this is explained by Kip Lee, head of UH Venture tech transfer office. He explained “the UH was inspired by the turtle which, like many sea creatures, uses a small, magnetic charge for navigation.” This became the foundation for an application involving “geo-positioning” that helps patients and visitors navigate hospital halls. This offers an auspicious resource given that hospitals can be daunting when navigating through the seemingly endless halls and department locations. This would also offer a decrease in the inquiries administrative offices receive regarding directing visitors.

The promise of biomimicry is that there is much potential and opportunities to be explored that will enhance various fields due to “proven designs” that nature has created over time.

“When we begin to see the Earth and its biodiversity as models and mentors, then we will have the right motivation and the right perspective to fit in — to survive and to thrive.”

— Dr. Dayna Baumeister, Biomimicry 3.8 Co-Founder

References:

Biomimicry: A strategic tool for creating innovative and sustainable consumer healthcare solutions. (2019, July 8). Retrieved from https://www.futurebridge.com/blog/biomimicry-a-strategic-tool-for-creating-innovative-and-sustainable-consumer-healthcare-solutions/.

Great Lakes Biomimicry. (2019). What Is Biomimicry? Retrieved from https://glbiomimicry.org/About/.

Institute, T. B. (2015, July 7). Nature and Business: Developing a Sustainable Society Together. Retrieved from https://biomimicry.org/nature-business/.

Lefkowitz, M. (2019, August 19). Biomimicry in Healthcare comes to Cleveland: GreenCityBlueLake. Retrieved from https://www.gcbl.org/blog/2019/08/biomimicry-in-healthcare-comes-to-cleveland.

Smith, C., Bernett, A., Sadik-Khan, E., Hanson, E., & Garvin, C. Tapping into Nature. Retrieved from https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/tapping-into-nature/#technologies.

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