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Copying Mother Nature – Looking back at The Garden session

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Andreas Stillman
by Andreas Stillman in Blog
October 9, 2016 comments

Even today, if asked for the biggest fear from childhood, many of us would confidently and without a doubt reply: “needles and injections”. Now, we can take a long and a deep breath because pain-free needles are here. But, how is it possible? What is the secret of this invention? In this blog post we share the main points and reflections from the past week’s Garden session about biomimicry

Mosquitos are possibly valuable for something after all. While after a mosquito bite each of us can feel itching, none of us can actually feel the biting itself. By trying to replicate mosquito’s proboscis, Japanese micro-engineers from the Kansai University in Osaka created a pain-free needle1. This is, however, not the only case where nature gave birth to a new invention. Biomimicry, also known as biomimetics “is an innovation method using nature as the inspiration source for out-of-the-box (breakthrough) innovations”, said Ylva Poelman, the keynote speaker of the last week’s The Garden session.

Ylva Poelman is the initiator and the driving force behind Biomimetics Innovation and Expertise Center in Groningen. She also writes a biweekly column in the Dutch national newspaper Trouw about biomimicry under the alias ‘The Bionic Woman’. With many years of field experience, Poelman not only showed us some of nature’s secrets but also shared with us their implications in fostering innovation.

“Let us pretend that 4 billion years is one year. If that was the case, 6 days ago dinosaurs would have surrounded us, half an hour ago we would have been still homo sapiens, and 2 seconds ago the very important event in the technology history would have happened, Industrial Revolution”
– Ylva Poelman

Having highlighted the complexity of nature, as well as its functionality, Poelman gave us some examples: Michael Phelp’s swimsuit inspired by sharkskin, sustainable buildings inspired by termites, wind turbines inspired by whales, or jets inspired by birds. We were all thrilled, when we realized how many ideas for daily-used inventions have been actually benefited both people and the planet.

We were hungry for more examples and real-life experiences. Therefore, we welcomed on stage two founders from TU Delft and their start-up – ProGauntlet ( ProGauntlet offers a protective glove that combines ultimate protection with freedom of movement. Their first focus is on Historic European Martial Arts, but also future markets such as offshore, riot police, and sports. We had a chance to see the demo with smashing a hand covered with a glove, which played a role of a protection. To develop this, Maarten analyzed in-depth mechanism and movement of a human hand.

Is the biomimicry an answer to all the global challenges around us? Will the adoption of nature-inspired solutions catalyze a new era in business and design? As the father of Apple, Steve Jobs, once highlighted: “the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be the intersection of biology and technology”. We think so too – in the end there is no better designer than nature.



Deloitte’s ‘The Garden’ program

Powered by Deloitte Innovation, The Garden aims at connecting the ecosystem of start-ups, scale-ups, corporates and governments to each other. Every last Thursday of the month, we meet at Venture Café, Cambridge Innovation Center in Rotterdam to listen to keynote speakers and raise a discussion about a particular topic. Past sessions focused on the themes, such as Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Materials, Art & Technology or Food & Agriculture or Biomimicry.

This month, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), we will discuss innovative business concepts that use space technologies, applications or services in non-space environments. In a nutshell, we will bring space back down to Earth on Thursday October 27, at Venture Cafe, Rotterdam. We hope to see you at the next Garden session!

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