Over 3.8 billion years of evolution, living systems have been optimized re¬garding matter, energy and information flows. Through that optimization process, natural selection has sorted out the most sustainable systems in terms of energy and water management, eco-materials production, information processing as well as organization and collective intelligence efficiency.
Human societies are evolving living systems subjected to the same envi¬ronmental constraints and physical laws (planetary boundaries, bioche¬mical cycles, geological cycles…) as non-human living systems. Unders¬tanding and mimicking living systems properties is thus a relevant frame to engage into responsible innovation.
Traditional product or service design and innovation usually consists either in improving existing ones in terms of resource consumption, waste management, and impact on the environment, or trying to imitate natural materials using standard methods. Because human societies are by themselves living systems, constrained by the Earth’s physical and biological boundaries, new industrial innovations and processes may be achieved by learning from living species and ecosystems.
Living systems, from cells to ecosystems, are open self-organizing systems, in interaction with their environment. These systems rely on three flows: matter, energy and information.
Living systems have the capacity to arise through a circular process in which they « self-produce » their own components: feedback loops are used to make the necessary changes in order to survive, grow or reproduce. The peculiarity of any open system (living or non-living) is that they interact with other systems outside of themselves. Each level in the hierarchy of supra systems, systems and subsystems has its own laws, which cannot be derived from the laws of the lower level.
At the species level, natural selection, over 3.8 billion years, has constrained organisms to solve the challenges of feeding, locomotion, and reproduction in ecological systems that are able to sustain themselves in dynamic environments. Evolution has thus selected the most adapted and adaptable systems, which are optimized regarding energy, matter and information management.
As an introductory tool, KARIM has produced a guide to entrepreneurs and innovation support organizations to implement Biomimicry as a tool for responsible innovation.
This guide is both an introduction to the emerging concept of biomimicry (bio=life, mimesis = imitate) and a guide for considering such an approach as a responsible innovation opportunity within a project. It is thus a complement to the KARIM Responsible Innovation manual.
This guide is aimed both at innovation support organizations and entrepreneurs, in order to:
• raise awareness about the potential of nature inspired solutions for responsible innovation
• propose ways to improve the product (especially in terms of sustainability), by taking inspiration from living systems