In September, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC) published a report on biomimicry: "Drawing inspiration from nature for sustainable innovation" with an introduction by researcher Idriss Aberkane, whose demonstrations and metaphors raise awareness of the incredible potential of nature: "In a drop of sea water, you have Intel chips that have been taunting us for 3 billion years...".
An recent years, progress in research and development has led to the advent of biotechnologies, in particular nanotechnologies and bioinformatics. These sciences have nothing to show nature, which took 3.8 billion years to refine its development. The living has therefore proven its efficiency and adaptability. Man has always sought to imitate its forms, materials or processes. Today, thanks to the development of science and the moment of engaging in ecological and energy transitions, this ambition is being transformed. The precision of our observation tools and the opening up of new fields of exploration are leading us to make unexpected discoveries in nature that are both effective and sustainable. Biomimicry is the word that best sums up this new approach, which proposes to draw inspiration from nature in order to innovate in a sustainable way. The EESC unveils the main thrust and potential of this approach, based on concrete examples in France and around the world. It analyses the framework for its development and proposes solutions to ensure the networking and dissemination of biomimicry.
Zaha Hadid, Architect
Getting inspiration from nature is not a new idea. The practice has been common throughout human history. But imitating nature to innovate in a sustainable way is an idea that takes on its full meaning. This makes sense at a time when France is embarking on a transition that is both energetic and ecological. Biomimicry has this ambition.
ETH's robot turtle is expected to be used on future submarine study expeditions. Among other things, its head has the capacity to accommodate various scientific modules and sensors, and its autonomous navigation system should make it particularly useful in the study of fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs..
It is an approach that invites man to draw on the multiple sources of inspiration provided by nature, whether in terms of shapes, materials or ecosystems. It invites him to observe the solutions put forward in the The aim is to reproduce them in a way that makes it easier for human societies to solve their problems and meet their own needs, while limiting the consumption of materials and energy. Biomimicry is a tool for sustainable development.
In the scientific, technical or industrial fields, the field of applications of biomimicry is vast and varied: from agriculture to industry and architecture, the prospects for innovation, economic activity and job creation seem promising. Although there is already a framework for innovation that includes an environmental dimension in Europe as in France, as well as a certain number of tools available to economic players and from which biomimicry could benefit, the obstacles to its expansion remain.
The purpose of the EESC opinion is to propose solutions for lifting them and going further.
The three sources of inspiration for the biomimetic approach
- The forms :
Source of inspiration: marine animals whose undulating bodies or fins allow them to move.
Realization: an undulating membrane intended to produce electricity thanks to the energy provided by the pressure of the fluids (under test).
The Festo company has created an amazing robot: the Aquajelly which, thanks to its eight robotic tentacles, is able to move discreetly like a real jellyfish.
Sources of inspiration: the weft thread of the spider, the byssus of the mussel.
Achievements: exploitation of mechanical properties for new materials, very resistant and extensible, suture threads usable in liquid medium, adhesives for medical or industrial use...
- Ecosystems :
Sources of inspiration: the ability of certain fungi to absorb metals from the soil such as lead or cadmium or to destroy hydrocarbons.
Achievements: requalification and restoration of polluted soils, reuse of organic matter produced according to principles close to those of the circular economy and industrial ecology, by optimising flows in the image of the ecosystem functioning.
To this end, the EESC advocates :
1) Giving visibility to biomimicry
- Defining terms :
- Clarify the field and nature of biomimicry, assert its demand for sustainability, and specify the related concepts so that biomimicry becomes a clearly identified tool for transforming modes of innovation and production.
- Inventorying biomimetic activities :
- To identify French research teams (public and private) as well as companies working on the subject, or adopting a biomimetic approach;
- Carry out market research on a national, European or even international scale with the aim of making the economic potential of biomimicry more visible.
– Structuring and perpetuating the network :
- Initially, provide the Senlis European Centre of Excellence in Biomimicry (CEEBIOS) with a financial boost to animate the network and produce the first studies; set up a platform of expertise on biomimicry.
2) Removing barriers to biomimicry applications
- Creating the conditions for the development of biomimetic practices in agriculture
- To improve knowledge on ecomimetic practices in agriculture and to measure the results; to include this topic in the official curricula of agricultural high schools and in continuing education; to organize dialogue between the actors of agro-ecology and those of conventional agriculture.
- Develop permaculture and micro-agriculture in constrained spaces, particularly urban and peri-urban areas.
- Opening spaces for innovation in biomimetic architecture
- Favour innovative projects by granting regulatory flexibility, for example by authorising the creation of experimentation or demonstration areas; open up specifications to biomimicry.
- Improving research and development in biomimicry :
- Encourage industrialists to make more frequent use of these innovative processes; increase the research effort; develop a digital organisation of knowledge; set up transdisciplinary working groups that can bring together engineers and researchers around the same theme; encourage the Strategic Sector Committees of the National Council of Industry to take up the theme of biomimicry.
3) Anchoring biomimicry in the educational landscape
- Developing nature observation at school
- Raise pupils' awareness of biodiversity from kindergarten onwards by emphasising nature observation work, the first step towards the biomimetic approach; encourage interdisciplinary teaching in secondary schools around the theme of biodiversity.
It is said that in the face of the constraints linked to human survival on earth and sustainable development, there is no better source of aspiration than life or nature.
- Promoting biomimicry in higher education
- To identify the teaching modules on biomimicry disseminated in wider education, to identify them and organize their networking; to develop a digital education network that would facilitate cooperation between higher education and research institutions. To train biomimicry professionals capable of acting as a bridge between biology, chemistry and engineering sciences and techniques.
4) Moving towards sustainability
- Develop life cycle assessments
- Ask companies to carry out life cycle analyses of biomimetic products and technologies whenever possible and disseminate the results; promote systematic reflection on the entire life cycle of products.
- Strengthening the links between biomimicry and biodiversity
- Translate into terms of allocated means the will to make biodiversity one of the priorities of public policies; translate into practice the will to entrust public structures with the task of supporting biomimicry sectors.
(Source: Opinion of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council presented by Ms Patricia Ricard, rapporteur on behalf of the Environment Section)