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How do things come to life? How do new species emerge from coincidences?

Those questions that evolution and genetic science makes us understand more and more on a biological level are most relevant also in the realm of social and business entrepreneurship: How do we find ways to keep adapting to the changes around us? And how do we create the setup to train people to become the catalysts for those changes? Let us take a look deep into our bodies to understand this.

In our cells, a fertile environment of components and nutrients exists. When they come together they form new combinations that give rise to new molecules, changes in genetics and ultimately new forms of life. These chemical encounters happen by chance; like in real life you meet people by chance, find common interests, shared values and matching goals. Chances to meet complementary molecules, or people for that matter, are increased by the right environment and catalysts. The global Biomimicry network is also such a fertile environment, a “cell” where like-minded people come together, driven by the vision to contribute to a world with greater cooperation, more responsible businesses, more positive societal impact and less damage to the environment. In the global Biomimicry network, they receive the tools and guidance to turn this vision into a reality. They are helped by the catalysts: the experts and coaches who teach Biomimicry, and connect people and ideas, leading to new products, services or initiatives. The latest species that emerged from this environment is the Biomimicry Academy.

Impressions from the first cohort at Biomimicry Academy, 2019.

Bioinspired Circular Innovation

At Biomimicry Academy, we combine innovative, sustainable and human-centred approaches with business modelling to bring change directly into companies or organisations. We call this approach Bioinspired Circular Innovation.

This professional training programme consists of an online phase, the Biomimicry Essentials with three modules, followed by a face-to-face period over four months, including an Applied Biomimicry project to earn the degree of a Biomimicry Practitioner. Participants will set out on a learning journey starting with an introduction into Circular Economy, Human-Centred and Nature-Inspired Design. After this introduction and an on-site session to experience the power of Biomimicry, the prospective Biomimics continue into application on real business cases and further on to business modelling. They work on business-sourced “Challenges to Biology” and learn on the job. Those challenges will go beyond product design and might spread to service design and even structural and social change. Their results will be used by company’s R’n’D, or be published open-source. This way, the training does not remain in the classroom, but enter the real world and can immediately be put to use.

For their graduation, participants will take on their own Biomimicry project. Those Biomimicry projects will integrate with the Global Biomimicry Challenge of the Biomimicry Institute. Participants or teams who wish to continue have the opportunity to submit an application for the Biomimicry Launchpad, the accelerator programme that helps early-stage entrepreneurs bring nature-inspired solutions to market.

Building the programme has been a rewarding experience. It is thrilling to get together with a group of experienced individuals who are driven by their values and curiosity and work on a joint project. But how did it start?

How it started — and where it will lead us

About 10 years ago Biomimicry started to leap across the Atlantic to Europe. It was the consequence of more and more Europeans being drawn to the Biomimicry training programmes initiated by Dayna Baumeister and Janine Benyus. Among those first pioneers who made the way across the ocean, virtually and literally, were Arndt PechsteinRegina Rowland and Jacques Chirazi.

Dr. Arndt Pechstein and Dr. Fabian Feutlinske from Biomimicry Academy at the Mediasphere of Natural History Museum Berlin, 2019.

Graduating as Biomimicry Specialist from Biomimicry 3.8, Arndt came back to Germany in 2014 to co-found Biomimicry Germany. Ever since the NPO became a hub for bioinspiration that goes beyond mere technical invention to incorporate the sustainability aspect that is so crucial in the communication of Biomimicry.

A few years later, the European Biomimicry Alliance was christened. That is where we met Regina, who came back from the US after years as educator and consultant for Biomimicry 3.8 and others. Her declared goal was to bring Biomimicry to her home country Austria, and to establish a joint European movement. In 2016, at an event under the skeleton of the Brachiosaurus at the Natural History Museum in Berlin, the spark to create a European biomimicry programme was first lit. Over the years, we have noticed an increasing interest from companies and individuals wanting to use nature to inspire solutions in their work. As such, an alliance was formed by Biomimicry Germany and phi360, led by Arndt and me, Regina at Burgenland University, as well as the Biomimicry Institute in California, with Jacques at its helm, and the Natural History Museum in Berlin to create the Biomimicry Academy.

The members of Biomimicry Germany 2016, the predecessor of Biomimicry Academy.

Regina brings social innovation and systems thinking to the table. She has developed an online course on these and other disciplines for the European Union, which will kick off the Bioinspired Circular Innovation programme in 2019. Arndt and me have developed and coached formats for responsible innovation in our agency phi360 for years. We include our backgrounds in Biomimicry, neuroscience as well as entrepreneurship and business modelling in the programme.

The Biomimicry Academy’s goal is to overcome the barrier of entrenched “business as usual” mindsets and make the Biomimicry process more even more useful to companies and individuals. This goal aligns with Jacques’ work at the Biomimicry Institute. Consequently, we aim to funnel the work done to earn the certificate at Biomimicry Academy into the Biomimicry Launchpad. The learning journey of becoming a Biomimicry Practitioner will therefore lead the participants right into their future fields of work.

We have founded the Biomimicry Academy in order to bring greater accessibility and applicability to Biomimicry in Europe, and to connect the next generation of bright minds. The Academy therefore will join the ranks of the excellent institutions which comprise the global ecosystem of Biomimicry, bioinspiration, responsible, circular and regenerative innovation. Who knows what species might emerge from this new education programme — we are excited to find out!