Canadian Approach to ISO/TC 266

Like the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, one of the challenges facing biomimetics (in the broader sense) is the diversity and fragmentation of this emerging field, a situation often not fully recognized by researchers, practitioners and prospective clients.  The proliferation of terms used to describe the process of “learning from nature” is only one example.  Diversity is essential in the early stages of a field but can also lead to misunderstanding, isolation and missed opportunities due to lack of awareness of what others in the community are doing. 

The ISO/TC 266 initiative could help facilitate collaboration within the community by providing a compelling, insightful and rigorous description of the biomimetic landscape that reflects its diversity while at the same time building a consensus on key terminology, concepts and methods.  This could create opportunities for biomimetic research and practice by helping community members understand how their work relates to the broader field, find collaborators and facilitate synergy.  Such a document could also help communicate the underlying concepts of biomimetics outside the biomimetics community. 

As a participating country in the ISO/TC 266 Biomimetics initiative, Canada has raised a number of concerns about the the Working Group 1 “Terminology, concepts and methodology” Draft International Standard.  The Canadian team has an opportunity to contribute text to the current document at the October 20-22 ISO/TC 266 annual meeting.  Due to the short timeline, we are focusing on the “Terms and definitions” and “Biomimetics and sustainability” sections.   We are looking for help from experts in the international biomimetics community through a staged process involving identifying key focus areas, collecting a broad range of input and consolidating the material into a document that is insightful, inclusive and rigorous.

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nhoeller's picture

Terms and Definitions

The Canadian mirror committee is reaching out to the community to develop a list of terms that are essential to understanding biomimetics in the broader sense.  The key steps are:

  • Distribute a survey at to collect definitions for 'core' terms and also build a list of additional terms.
  • Distribute a second survey to collect definitions for terms selected from the responses to the first survey.  
  • Create an 'anthology' that reflects the diversity of definitions including the term's origin, usage, how the term is perceived and overlaps/differences with related terms.
  • Form small teams that will consolidate the input into a cohesive and insightful terminology that will be reviewed with the contributors and other experts in the field.


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Re: Terms and Definitions

Hi Norbert. I have completed the survey, and look forward to your anthology of terms and definitions.



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nhoeller's picture

Results of Terminology and Definitions Survey

Thanks to the 19 individuals who completed the Terminology and Definitions survey, Fil Salustri, Melina Angel and Alëna Iouguina were able to prepare an extensive description of five terms (biomimetics, biomimicry, bionics, bio-inspired design and cradle-to-cradle) along with an overview of 'systems'.  Although we collected information about 'design for the environment', the responses suggested that this term was dissimilar from the others and was excluded.  Due to time constraints, we were not able to follow up on the additional terms that the survey respondents suggested.

Fil and Melina took the document to the ISO/TC 266 annual meeting in Liège, Belgium.  Unfortunately, the Working Group 1 "Terminology, concepts and methodology" document had reached a stage where substantive changes were no longer possible.  The Working Group 1 document will be going into revision in 2015 and we hope to incorporate a more inclusive set of definitions at that time. 

Thanks ago to everyone who completed the survey!  If you have any comments, additions or corrections to the attached document, please let us know.

ISO TC 266 Terminology.pdf 124.22 KB
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nhoeller's picture

B3D, Sustainability and Business

There has been a lot of discussion about the relationship of sustainability to biomimicry, biomimetics and bio-inspired design (B3D) that has not led to a broad consensus.  Taryn Mead suggested looking at how B3D relates to existing sustainability approaches and the implications for the business community.  Although some business initiatives have been half-hearted, businesses are starting to wake up to the risks of ignoring sustainability as well as the opportunities it can create.  This approach represents only one way of looking at B3D and sustainability but early results suggest that it may lead to promising results.

The Canadian mirror committee is using a survey developed by Taryn Mead as part of her PhD research.  This allows us to tap into the 30-odd survey responses she has already collected while contributing to her research.  If you have not already completed her survey at, please set aside 15-30 minutes before Friday, October 10th to provide your input.  All questions are optional with the exception of your name and only Taryn and myself will be able to identify the individual respondents.  As with the Terminology survey, we will create an 'anthology' that reflects the diversity of ideas and form small teams to look for patterns that will be reviewed with the contributors and other experts in the field.

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nhoeller's picture

Responses to 'Connecting Biom* and Sustainability'

To date, Taryn has received 67 responses to her Connecting Biom* and Sustainability survey.  At the ISO/TC 266 annual meeting in Liège, Belgium, Taryn got agreement for a proposal on developing a sustainability document as part of ISO/TC 266.  The survey responses will be a key input to this process.

Thanks to everyone who responded!

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