biomimicry
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New promoters of bioinspired inventions

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The year 2015 has been marked by events to show the advantages of biomimicry for the industry. The next biodiversity law, which will be discussed in January in the Senate, should strengthen the impetus in this area. Stakes and prospects. 
 
"It's not for nature to produce like our factories, it's for our factories to produce like nature."
Gunter Pauli, promoter of the blue economy and director of the Fondation Zéri. 
 
« La nature does a lot of things with economy of means; why not do like her? » He who expresses himself in this way is not a gentle dreamer but a businessman. Antonio Molina Nolin, founding president of the Mäder company (1), is one of the world's leading players in technical paint, which will announce in March the launch of a so-called "bio-based" paint: the polyester base is derived from corn starch. Passionate about innovation, he believes in the good ideas that evolution has crystallized in living organisms.
President of the European Centre of Excellence in Biomimicry of Senlis (CEEBIOS) he introduced the symposium on 16 and 17 December devoted to "Biodiversity-inspired research" which was jointly organized by CEEBIOS and the Muséum nationale d'histoire naturelle (MNHN). "We have to realize that industry has everything to gain if it turns to processes close to biological metabolism, he explains. Biomimetic solutions avoid CO2 emissions, avoid the extraction of fossil fuels and save energy. A very simple example is the curing of paints (polymerization) in industry, which is traditionally carried out in ovens at 300°C. Today we know how to make paints that cure under ultraviolet light, which saves all heat loss. 
 
Many other "smart innovations" were presented during the conference. Copying spider silk is at the heart of the projects of the companies Amsilk (Germany), Kraig Biocraft Laboratories and Araknitech (USA), Spiber (Japan). The latter produces 10 tons/year of its artificial silk yarn, which is much more resistant than Kevlar. These companies have transferred spider genes either into silkworms, bacteria or goats. When synthetic biology combines with biomimicry...
The presentations also showed the fruitful exchanges between ecologists, evolutionists, taxonomists and engineers. "We have seen that knowledge of filiations allows us to have judicious strategies to find common properties between organisms, relates Vincent Bels, professor at the MNHN and initiator of the symposium. We can thus target the analytical tests. The biologist underlines the relevance of biological solutions that integrate the diverse requirements of ecosystems but also scales. This is just the opposite of what is done in the habitat, for example, when constructing perfectly thermo-regulated buildings. The result? People rush to ...open the windows! Simply because we haven't been able to integrate several parameters like here the need for air or interaction with the open space. In contrast, the Eastgate shopping centre in Harare's Zinbabwe was designed to be ventilated and cooled in a completely natural way, inspired by termite mounds. Designed by architect Mick Pearce in 1996, it demonstrates the tremendous benefits of saving energy and providing comfort at the same time. 
 
Portcullis House's in the Eastgate Centre, Harare - Zimbabwe 
 
Specialists who are passionate about biomimicry have a state of mind. Interdisciplinary and receptive. They are capable of mental pirouettes and revisit notions of performance. "Because living things don't manage power and energy the way industry does."insists Antonio Molina Nolin. Change of perspective also in the materials "For medical prosthetics, it's the holes in the material that are important, not the material." observes the President of CEEBIOS. Fascinated by the matter that living organisms crystallize, Jacques Livage (from the Laboratory of Condensed Matter of the Pierre and Marie Curie University) presented his discovery of diatoms whose fine cavities are used to filter beer, wine or swimming pool water. The pioneer of soft chemistry also spotted the astonishing optical properties of the siliceous cages of these microalgae. He plans to use them as biosensors or bioreactors. 
 
Diatoms, called bacillariophyceae or diatomophyceae, are microscopic organisms of a plant nature, living in the water, either in suspension (plankton) or on the bottom, free or attached to various supports.
 

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While biomimicry is the subject of strong policies and investments, particularly in Germany (see the creation of the Biokon networkIn 2001, under the leadership of the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which brings together some thirty laboratories, institutes or research centres and universities), an impetus of this type is expected in France ..."The Aquitaine Region has announced the completion of a mapping and roadmap on Blue Growth and Biomimicry". said Kalina Raskin, CEEBIOS Development Officer.
 

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At the international level, the ISO standards body has published two texts referring to biomimicry, one on biomaterials and the other on metabolic algorithms. It is clear that in France, CEEBIOS, in its training, support, demonstration and networking activities, facilitates the link between research and industrial applications. Located in Senlis, it creates an emulation between local actors present on the agro-industrial site of Pomacle Bazancourt (near Reims), those of thePivert Institute in Picardy and theFrench Institute of Agro-Sourced Materials (IFMAS) in Villeneuve d'Ascq, both labeled as ITE (Institute for Energy Transition) under the PIA (Programme d'Investissements d'Avenir). 
 
In 2015, the movement towards these biomimetic approaches has increased. On 10 November last, the "Arcane" laboratory of excellence co-organised, with the General Commission for Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, a scientific conference dedicated to research in biomimetic chemistry in the context of sustainable development and energy transition. The Economic, Environmental and Social Council (EESC) also presented - last September - its report Drawing inspiration from nature for sustainable innovation, coordinated by Patricia Ricard. It includes the testimony of Idriss AberkaneThe same professor at Centrale-Supelec, who dares to think that we will probably find in twenty years time that our current uses of oil are very old-fashioned! "Raw materials are not infinite, but if we base our growth on knowledge, there are no limits, he suggests. And nature is our library! ».
 
Gilles Bœuf, former president of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle and who has been approached to head the next Biodiversity Agency, hopes that 2016 will set in motion a number of key initiatives to promote bio-inspiration. We are waiting for the framework law  " for the reconquest of biodiversity, nature and landscapes" - which is constantly being pushed back - but which The bill "should be considered in the Senate in mid-January and voted on before the summer", said the Minister of Ecology on December 8.
It is this law that is to establish the Biodiversity Agency. The associations and unions (FNE, FNH, H&B, LPO, CFDT, Surfrider Foundation and Unaf) have expressed their impatience with the delays in the timetable. It is possible that industrialists will add their grievances, as some understand that betting on nature can become strategic: "30% of chemicals will be produced by biotechnological processes by 2040." indicated Marc Fontecave, holder of the Chemistry of Biological Processes Chair at the Collège de France during a lecture delivered in March 2015
 
 
(1) Its small company in Maroeuil (Pas-de-Calais) has become in 20 years a group of 850 employees working in 16 plants in some 20 countries in Europe and Asia. The company has an annual turnover of 200 million euros, of which at least 10 % are devoted to R&D each year. 
 
 

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