Biomimicry is a promising approach for driving innovation
A new case study shows that biomimicry, a relatively new field that seeks to emulate nature to find solutions to human problems, can potentially expand intellectual property, increase energy savings and accelerate product innovation.
“At GOJO, sustainability is a key driver of innovation and biomimicry is energizing how we create sustainable value for all stakeholders through new product development,” said Tom Marting, co-author of the study.
“Nature is one massive field testing laboratory that has been operating for nearly four billion years. If it doesn’t work in nature, it’s not going to be around very long.”
A cross-functional team of 15 GOJO employees dedicated 165 hours in workshop sessions on biomimicry, attempting to increase the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of liquid soap and sanitizer dispenser pumps. Ultimately, four patent applications for novel dispensing systems resulted from the team’s efforts with the inspiration for each system stemming from nature.
To determine the extent of the advantages offered by biomimicry, the biomimicry project’s performance was compared to a similar pump development project GOJO executed in 2010. The preliminary data strongly suggests that biomimicry may offer real advantages in the front end of innovation for both improved innovation performance and improved sustainability.
- Double the intellectual property — with a greater proportion of the concepts from the biomimicry project converting from notices of invention to patent applications
- Double to quadruple the energy efficiency compared to technology in the market today
- Impressive results with approximately one-sixth of the personnel and financial resources
GOJO was one of the first Northeast Ohio companies to support a biomimicry Ph.D. fellow from the University of Akron. Co-author of the study and GOJO Biomimicry Fellow Emily Kennedy spends two days a week within the GOJO research and development department.
“This case study takes a closer look at how the GOJO team found inspiration from plants, skunks, blood circulation and other wonders of nature,” said Emily Kennedy.
While, further studies are warranted to determine how and to what extent the results of the study are generally applicable, this study found that biomimicry is a highly promising approach and key tool to advance sustainable product innovation while providing a high return on investment.
Emily Barbara Kennedy, & Thomas Andrew Marting (2016). Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products Research-Technology Management : 10.1080/08956308.2016.1185342