What is it about?

Since the beginning of the methodological studies on biomimetics, the final goal has been to practice biomimetics without biologists, considered by default as external players. As a result, rather than been built based on the integration of biologist, biomimetic design processes are entirely based on tools (databases, ontologies, thesaurus, etc.). As crucial as they are, these tools were proven not to be sufficient as biomimetics still hasn’t reach is promises. Through a biomimetic case study performed by both students in engineering and student in biology, our article aims to open a debate on the composition of design teams in the innovative field of biomimetics. The results are presented and then compared with experts' opinion on the integration of biologists in specialized design teams, showing why they represent relevant assets during the practice of biomimetics.

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Why is it important?

We believe that, engineering design research on biomimetics should start to focus on “Who is the best fit to use a given biomimetic tool and perform a given biomimetic step? And if some profiles are uncommon, then how can they be included in the design processes and teams?”. We think that bringing biomimetics to the next level (i.e. its implementation in the industrial world) will notably depend on our ability to integrate such missing key players and to start considering them as opportunities instead of constraints.


Even though our article argue for the integration of biologists within biomimetic design teams, the terms and form of such a cooperation are to be entirely defined. As pointed out by the experts: should we actually consider the integration of ‘biologists’ or of ‘biological expertise’ and if we are, which ‘biologists’ are we talking about? A transdisciplinary profile, having both a biological expertise, focused on the needs of biomimetics design, and knowledge in engineering in order to link both scientific fields appears as a challenging but rewarding research goal. It also raises the question of the methodological framework surrounding the integration of such a profile. As our findings suggest, an expertise in biology should facilitate the access to a deeper level of analysis but it also requires tools and processes adapted for such approaches and pluridisciplinary work.

Eliot Graeff

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Biomimetics, where are the biologists?, Journal of Engineering Design, July 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/09544828.2019.1642462.
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