Natural Entrepreneurs

Learn from Nature. Design for People and Planet: The programme for Biomimicry and Entrepreneurship in schools

Climate change, geopolitical crises and the pandemic – the last few years have been rich in challenges for Germany, Europe and the world. But challenges are always also opportunities; opportunities to create a future that works sustainably better than current systems. It is our task to prepare tomorrow’s movers and shakers to take on these challenges. Because as Albert Einstein said, “You can never solve problems with the same mindset that created them.” A new EU project is promoting a new way of thinking by bringing together STEM, business and the highly required “future skills“.

We know that tomorrow will be different from today. In the future we will need new skills, new knowledge and new ways. But also very old wisdom. Because there are solutions that show us how to live, produce and consume sustainably; how to master crises and resolve conflicts without wars and genocide; how to create healthy coexistence within the framework of local possibilities. Nature has been the only truly sustainable system for 3.8 billion years. At first glance, it appears complex. But behind this complexity are simple principles that allow life to adapt and thrive.

Nature has its own operating system. the interaction of these principles tested and optimized by evolution. We can understand, decode and apply these principles. The way to do this is called biomimicry. “Bios” for life and “mimesis” for imitation. If we can imagine a different future, we can create it. Nature is showing us how. Dr. Fabian Feutlinske, founder of the Biomimicry Academy and its operator COBIOM says, “Circular economy, sustainability, regenerative design – all this means that the things we humans make become a force that restores air, water and soil instead of destroying them. Nature uses structures to change functions and also uses passive forms of energy, while our inventions usually rely on brute force, such as mining old carbon and a variety of harmful chemicals. We can create conditions that are conducive to life, just as nature does.”

Biomimicry is the study of these principles, of nature’s operating system. Applying these principles to human design can have a transformative effect – on technology, on society, and on each individual. Until the Wright Brothers observed how vultures fly in crosswinds, they could not solve the challenge of how to keep airplanes upright on a windy day. Without vultures, there might be no airplanes and no easy international travel. We can learn from nature, be part of the natural environment, and do our part to preserve it. These are the pillars of Biomimicry. You don’t have to be a biologist, scientist, engineer, or expert to follow these principles. In fact, we can and should start learning and practicing this ancient new way of thinking at an early age.

Natural Entrepreneurs is an EU-funded project that aims to encourage more students to take the future of our society and economy into their own hands. It uses Biomimicry as a fundamental research and design tool. It provides an opportunity to learn how we can address the challenges of sustainability and collaboration that Europe faces today. Guided by UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals, the program gives students and teachers a process to create Biomimicry designs as desirable, achievable solutions themselves. Formats can be self-selected, from 3 days alongside or in class, to 3 weeks as a cross-curricular project work, to a full 3-month course. Teachers are supported by the Natent platform. It maps the process and provides materials and support.

Natural Entrepreneurs encourages students to work together across Europe and provides a stronger sense that Europe can make the transition to a sustainable future together. There are five partner countries participating in the pilot project starting in October 2021. Natural Entrepreneurs is applicable across a range of STEM and business subjects. The challenges that student teams work on can be chosen from the platform or created by the students themselves. They offer real-world application of the process to science, design, invention, and even policy issues. Ultimately, it’s about actually turning the ideas into entrepreneurial reality.

Students learn how to think and collaborate across subjects. They learn how to identify the key challenges that impact their lives, how nature provides a model for sustainability, and how to turn their ideas into business plans and connect with entrepreneurs. Support for teachers includes teaching tools to promote interdisciplinary learning between STEM, design, and entrepreneurship. All of this is provided and organized through an online learning environment to support teachers and students. It offers a selection of learning resources tailored to the needs of learners. Natural Entrepreneurs is co-developed with experts and teachers. The pedagogical framework highlights conceptual understanding and key competencies and enables teachers to apply Natural Entrepreneurs in a variety of educational settings.

The project is an initiative of Wild Awake UK together together with the Biomimicry Academy ran by COBIOM, Biomimicry Netherlands, Focus Ecocenter in Romania and Vides Skola in Latvia. COBIOM is a pioneer in bringing biomimicry to business and society. The field is growing, with companies large and small using it to optimize services, improve design, and reduce the environmental impact of their products. The potential of biomimicry as a foundation for shaping our future offers opportunities for businesses, society, and everyone. Natural Entrepreneurs is already enabling high school students to engage with this process and learn how they can actively participate in the development of a green economy.

The ERASMUS program will start in the summer semester of 2022. It can be applied without any further prior knowledge, but there will be training offers from the project partners in the initial phase.

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