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Why You Should Bring a Biologist to the Design Table

If you or your business is situated at the frontier of innovation, you might be staring at a sea of unknowns: what is the best way to innovate more sustainably? More importantly, how can I bring sustainable innovation into my practice and adopt it as the new paradigm? Chances are that you have been discovering innovation frameworks and building culture around innovation in your workplace to encourage collaboration and cross-pollination of creative ideas. This article will be an additional clue to solving a piece of that puzzle to innovate more sustainably.

This article will explore how bringing biological expertise can help you bring nature’s genius to the design table to inspire sustainable innovations that will benefit your practice, and the rest of the world by and large. Out of all the available options that you could adopt to accelerate sustainable solutions, why does bringing a biologist to the design table rank up high against all other methods for cultivating innovation? The short answer is Nature.

Credit: Monique Laats (

Is Your Business Choosing the Best Innovation Framework?

Over the past 20 years a new idea has been blossoming gaining momentum in innovation and research hubs around the world. Biomimicry permeated popular culture with Janine Benyus’ 1997 book; Biomimicry: Innovations Inspired by Nature where it lays out the fundamental groundwork for this thinking.

Biomimicry is a methodology for creating sustainable innovations inspired by nature. Suppose you are solving for a particular challenge, say, how to build more sustainable developments – what would your first point of reference be? Would you look at recent human designs and improve the status quo, or seek out solutions that benefited from 3.8 billion years of research and development? Biomimicry is a bridge between human design and nature’s innovations to give birth to a new era of human solutions that are more in line with how nature works in terms of radical increase in resource efficiencies resulting to tremendous cost savings.

This is why looking to nature for solutions can be the difference between a novel sustainable, restorative, and regenerative solution, and one that only aspires to reduce the negative outcomes of our previous sustainability benchmarks. Nature gives us glimpses on how it solves for life’s challenges and effectively sustained life throughout billions of years. We can leverage that knowledge available to us by applying it to solve our problems, as it would also be the ultimate gesture of respect to the natural world that sustains us. The practice of seeking out nature for inspiration with the purpose of creating conditions conducive to all life can have tangible benefits to your bottom as well as broader benefits that can emanate beyond the scope of your practice.

The power of biomimicry is that you will have access to nature’s infinite supply of designs that encompass forms, processes, and systems. Ever wondered how mangroves hydrate using sea water? Our current desalination methods generate brine waste and have high energy requirements, but the wisdom of the mangrove teaches us desalination is possible without fouling our nest. Nature operates within the limits and boundaries of our home planet, so how come we don’t play by the same rules? We clearly don’t, and this begs the question whether or not we can sustain our current lifestyles. We still have a lot to learn, and nature can be our guide towards adopting the next paradigm: a nature-bound design and innovation culture.

Connect with a Biologist, and Ask Nature Questions!

Having a biologist at the design table is not only going to be the gateway to access nature’s genius, but they also act as translators and ambassadors of nature who are spending their time at the frontline witnessing, documenting, and interpreting natural processes. Whether it be in the deepest of oceans, on the highest of mountains, or in their own backyards, biologists are at the frontier of nature's innovation learning firsthand from the source. Because of their unique position, life sciences-oriented professionals are some of the most qualified individuals to conduct research and translate biology alongside biomimicry professionals where we can synthesize nature’s design principles into usable concepts for human applications.

The Arab world has enormous advantages in terms of tapping into nature’s genius. There are many resources and facilities for cultivating scientific knowledge especially in the areas of life sciences in many well-established research institutions. Although not all these institutions are quite ready for biomimicry, however, the opportunity is still there to cultivate new relationships between academia and industry. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, and many others do significant scientific and research contributions. Research institutes specializing in the life sciences can become the backbone of the newly emerging biomimicry discipline that falls under the ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ market.

Biomimicry as a discipline and methodology that seeks to create sustainable solutions is a growing field. If you are wondering how biomimicry might help you innovate in your own business, the timing for bringing a biologist to the design table to ask nature questions has never been more appropriate and accessible.

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