Canadian ISO/TC 266 Initiative

Taryn Mead is still pursuing getting the USA involved in the ISO Biomimetic Certification initiative through ANSI, the US National Standards Board.  Progress has been slow due to logistical and financial issues.  In parallel, I have been working with the Standards Council of Canada, the Canadian National Standards Board that defines the Canadian processes and acts as our conduit to ISO. 

Canada requires that a 'mirror committee' be set up which facilitates "balanced representation of interest categories, typically producers, users, general interest, regulators and consumer and public interest representation as needed. This shall reflect Canadian national interests."  To date, there has been interest from academia, industry and organisations from across Canada.  The next step is to submit a formal 'Annex A' proposal to the Standards Council of Canada (attached).  I have also attached a Fact Sheet based on Taryn's March 20th webinar.

I could use some help in identifying additional Canadian companies working in the area of B3D, both to demonstrate that there is current activity and also as potential mirror committee members.  Sources of funding would also be appreciated - although the Standards Council of Canada does not charge for their services, the mirror committee needs to send a delegate to a yearly ISO meeting that up to now has been held in Europe. 

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nhoeller's picture

Benefits to Mirror Committee Members

The Annex A document includes some words about the larger benefits of Canada's involvement in the ISO/TC 266 initiative.  At a meeting at Ryerson arranged by Fil on Thursday, questions were raised as to the direct benefits to potential mirror committee participants. 

For groups like Biomimicry Quebec or Biomimicry Alberta, participation in the ISO/TC 266 initiative could demonstrate leadership, increase credibility and open up opportunities to develop consulting offerings in advance of publication of the Biomimetics Standard.  ISO certification is big business and companies often rely on consultants to help them through the process.

For industry, early involvement in the ISO process can avoid downstream issues with compliance - even subtle wording in standards can have an impact if it accidentally excludes a particular corporate initiative.  Early adoption and compliance with the standard could be a differentiator.  Participation in the mirror committee can also generate Canadian and international contacts. 

Identifying the benefits for academics seems the most difficult.  Although ISO is promoting the education of standards and academic participation in standards development, this is not going to help in grant applications or getting published.  Academics are typically already well connected within Canada and internationally.  There may be some benefit if there is strong overlap between the academic's focus area and a Working Group.  One area worth pursuing is the case of an academic trying to raise the profile of biomimicry/biomimetics/bio-inspired design within their peer group.

Any thoughts?

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salustri's picture

Excellent points Norbert. The

Excellent points Norbert.

The only thing that seems evident to me is that research that fits within or satisfies standards is more likely to find adoption in industry - on the premise that industry will want to adhere to them.  If a company knows that a research result coming from a research project in academia satisfies the standards framework, then the company can leverage that to help their own adherence to the standard.

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nhoeller's picture

Official Submission to SCC Accepted

I submitted the proposal to have Canada become part of the ISO/TC 266 initiative this morning and got the following positive response.  For the record, the proposal is the same as the v3.3 PDF attached above with the removal of the questions and addition of contact information for the mirror committee members.

----- Forwarded by Norbert Hoeller/SINet on 2014-06-06 04:39 PM -----
From: Christine Geraghty   2014-06-06 02:10 PM 
Subject:  RE: ISO/TC266 "Biomimetics"
Good afternoon,
My Program Manager was able to review your application right away, and has approved the request to upgrade to Participating status on ISO/TC266.  I will now contact the International Secretariat to inform them of the upgrade request, and see about getting a new committee forum set up on our online site.  Once ISO has updated Canada’s status, and the new forum area has been created, I will then contact the members listed in your application, to instruct them on how to register to begin participating.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Best regards,
Christine Geraghty
Program Officer, ISD
Standards Council of Canada

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salustri's picture

Cool! When you get a chance,


When you get a chance, Norbert, post somewhere what the official title of our committee is.  I want to add it to my CV! :-)

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nhoeller's picture

re: Official Title

2014/06/29 For the record, the official title is: SCC’s Mirror Committee for ISO’s Technical Committee #266 on “Biomimetics” which can be shortened to SMC/ISO/TC266.

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salustri's picture

No rush.  Just let's make

No rush.  Just let's make sure we post it somewhere.  Hey, if we don't pat ourselves on the back, no one else will. :-)

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nhoeller's picture

re: Official Submission to SCC Accepted

Canada is now 'on the ISO map' for ISO/TC 266.  The ISO documentation has been rolling in (96 documents and counting).  Work is underway to get caught up on the current status.  The next step is to identify areas where Canada has an interest or can provide expertise and then engage with the appropriate Working Groups.  The annual meeting this year is on October 20-22 in Belgium. 

Dr. Arndt Pechstein contributed the article International standardization of biomimetic methods and approaches | ISO/TC-266 to the recent issue of the International Society of Bionic Engineering newsletter.  The article provides an overview and opportunities for improvement. 

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nhoeller's picture

Status of Canadian ISO/TC 266 Project

For a quick overview of the project and North American's involvement, see The ISO/TC 266 Biomimetics Standard Initiative in ZQ10

It turns out that Working Group 1 (Terminology, concepts and methodology) and Working Group 3 (Biomimetic structural optimization) had progressed from the Committee Draft (CD) stage to the Draft International Standard (DIS) stage in April 2014.  Due to systems issues, we did not become aware of this until two weeks before balloting closed on July 28th.  Canada abstained on the WG 3 vote (lack of time and expertise) but voted against the WG 1 document, providing four pages of comments and recommendations.  One other country voted 'No' which means that the WG 1 document was approved to proceed to the next stage.  The ISO Directives relating to voting are unclear as to exactly this stage might be. 

The next ISO/TC 266 meeting will be held October 20-22 in Belgium.  The Canadian delegate will need to bring along compelling WG 1 text if we are to have any influence on the course of the WG 1 standard.  The Canadian team is currently discussing various options.

If you are interested in contributing your expertise, please post a comment here, reply to the email notification or use the Contact Us form.

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nhoeller's picture

Update on ISO/TC 266 Annual Meeting

Thanks to the sponsors who contributed generously to cover travel expenses, Fil Salustri and Melina Angel were both able to attend the ISO/TC 266 annual meeting Liège, Belgium, which included two days of working group sessions and a one day plenary session.  Our primary focus was on the Working Group 1 ("Terminology, concepts and methodologies") and Working Group 4 ("Knowledge infrastructure for biomimetics") sessions.

Canada was able to get wording incorporated in "Terminology, concepts and methodologies" to more accurately reflect the intended audience (scientists and engineers).  However, at this stage in the process, more substantive changes were not possible.  Given general confusion about the process being followed, Canada proposed that the document go to the Final Draft International Standard stage, which would involve one more formal vote before publication.  A resolution was tabled for the plenary session but did not carry.  The consensus was to proceed with publication (probably in April 2015) and immediately open the document for revisions.  Working Group 1 was also supportive of suggestions to develop a separate "sustainability in biomimetics" document (UK) and a document on assessing the success of biomimetic projects (Canada).

The "Knowledge infrastructure for biomimetics" project is still in its early stages.  Our delegates were able to gain insights into the goals and potential technology being proposed.  There has been extensive communication amongst the Working Group 4 experts since the annual meeting.

Although Canada did not achieve as much as we had hoped, we consistently promoted a broader and more inclusive perspective on biomimetics.  Normally, ISO standards are re-opened for revision three years after publication - starting the process concurrent with publication is unusual.  We made contacts, built social capital and developed a better appreciation of the process.  Although the typical timeline for ISO standards is 36 months, the overheads of document preparation, balloting and reviews significantly limits the amount of time available for actually preparing the document.  In effect, major changes to the Working Group 1 document became increasingly difficult by July 2013 when the document entered the Committee Draft stage.  This highlights the value of developing a high quality working document before the official ISO project beings.

Aside from confusion about the ISO standards process, there appears to have been little discussion within ISO/TC 266 about which of the ISO deliverables would be most appropriate given the ongoing development within the field and the lack of consensus on "best practices".  Of particular interest are ISO/PAS Publicly Available Specifications that combine lower overheads with easier access by the intended audience.  The Canadian team is exploring these alternatives with the Standards Council of Canada. 


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nhoeller's picture

Recent ISO/TC 266 Developments

Since the November update, the USA core team has been meeting to explore ways of moving forward and and overcoming financial hurdles raised by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  In January of 2015, the process was transferred to Holly Harlan of the Biomimicry Institute Global Network who is continuing this mission. 

Questions continue to be raised whether the costs of the ISO process (barriers to entry, high overheads and restrictions on open communication) outweigh the benefits.  In spite of the challenges, ISO encourages international participation and can help attract experts who might otherwise not get involved.  ISO defines ‘standards for standards’ which helps improve the quality and consistency of deliverables.  Lastly, ISO deliverables can lend credibility to a field.  

Unfortunately the ISO Publicly Available Specification (PAS) is not what it seems - even ISO PAS documents need to be purchased.  The World Wide Web Coalition (W3C) and ISO have jointly published a number of PAS documents that are available for free from the W3C website and are also sold by ISO for business and organizations which are required to follow ISO standards.  One option may involve making early Working Drafts available publicly prior to launch of the formal ISO process, similar to how academic pre-prints are handled.

Regardless of whether the community as a whole engages with ISO/TC 266, we need to build a diverse team willing to invest in developing a broad consensus on key issues, documenting the results for broad discussion and further refinement, and driving initiatives that advance the emerging field of biomimetics/biomimicry/bio-inspired design.  Canada has created a restricted access Google Group to help build an international community that can work on the Assessment and Sustainability projects mentioned in the November update as well as a Vocabulary deliverable and guidelines for documenting biomimetic case studies.  A mission/goals/objectives statement is being developed to clarify what we aspire to achieve and to help build critical mass. 



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nhoeller's picture

Update on the 2015 Kyoto ISO/TC 266 Annual Meeting

Fil Salustri and Norbert Hoeller represented Canada at the ISO/TC 266 annual meeting in Kyoto, Japan on October 19th to the 21st.  There were two days of working group sessions and a half-day plenary session. 

The Canadian ISO/TC 266 mirror committee does not receive any funding.  If you are interested in helping to defray Fil's travel costs, please see 2016 Sponsorship of the Canadian ISO/TC 266 Mirror Committee .

Working Group 1 Update

Working Group 1 published ISO 18458 “Biomimetics — Terminology, concepts and methodology” in May 2015.  During the Liège meeting in 2015, the group agreed to start the revision process immediately upon publication but no content for revisions were received by the convenor.  The Sustainability in Biomimetics project proposed by the UK in Liège is still looking for a project leader. 

Fil Salustri presented an overview of the Biomimetic Assessment Framework proposed by Canada in Liège.  The Framework currently includes six criteria, three of which expand on the criteria in ISO 18458.  Canada estimated that it would take another six to nine months before the project would be mature enough to become a New Work Item Proposal.   Key steps are applying the Framework to at least two biomimetic case studies and creating a workbook that guides the person doing the assessment.

Since WG 1 currently has no active projects, WG 1 disbanded.  The convenor willcontinue to accept input for future revisions and can re-activate WG 1 when there are new projects.

Working Group 2 Update

Working Group 2 “Biomimetics — Biomimetic materials, structures and components” received a large number of comments as part of the Draft International Standards ballot and will progress to the Final Draft International Standard stage with a ballot in early 2016.  If the vote is successful and 18457 is published, WG 2 will disband. 

Working Group 3 Update

Working Group 3 published ISO 18459 “Biomimetics - Biomimetic structural optimization” in May 2015 and disbanded.

Working Group 4 Update

Working Group 4 “Knowledge Infrastructure of Biomimetics” needs to submit a New Work Item Proposal in early 2016, otherwise the project will be cancelled.  Originally WG 4 wanted to deliver an ISO Standard defining how an Ontology Enhanced Thesaurus should be developed.   We discussed whether it would be more appropriate to deliver a Technical Report that describes the current Japanese work on a prototype ontology and Keyword Explorer with the goal of encouraging testing by practitioners and further development.

Plenary Session

The plenary session was attended by representatives from Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the UK (China was absent).  A number of procedural changes were announced including down-grading the status of participating countries that are not actively participating in working groups, disbanding working groups that have no active work items or preliminary studies, and requiring that countries justify their votes to approve New Work Item Proposals. 

Next Steps

  1. Continue developing the Biomimetic Assessment Framework.
  2. Build interest amongst the ISO/TC 266 working group experts to collaborate outside of ISO/TC 266. 
  3. Continue supporting the efforts of Working Group 4 “Knowledge Infrastructure of Biomimetics”.
  4. Map out the Canadian biom* landscape (key academic institutions/labs and businesses involved in biomimetics).
  5. Develop a funding plan to support Canadian ISO/TC 266 initiatives. 


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nhoeller's picture

Update on the 2016 Berlin ISO/TC 266 Annual Meeting

I represented Canada at the ISO/TC 266 annual meeting in Berlin, Germany.  Working Group 4 held a half-day session on September 28th while the plenary session took up most of the 29th.  Germany, Japan, France, Canada and South Korea (observer country) sent representatives.

Working Group 2 Update (Biomimetic materials, structures and components)

ISO 18457 "Biomimetics — Biomimetic materials, structures and components" was published in September 2016.  The working group will remain active and revise the document based on comments collected during the final vote.

Working Group 4 Update​ (Knowledge Infrastructure for biomimetics)

Working Group 4 submitted a New Work Item Proposal to become an official ISO project.  Although the proposal received sufficient votes, the project could not be registered because not enough countries agreed to provide experts.  WG 4 decided to publish an ISO Technical Report on the Japanese Ontology Enhanced Thesaurus and Keyword Explorer.  A Technical Report is a descriptive (rather than a normative) document, allowing for a streamlined schedule and less rigorous voting procedures.

Task Group Update (Transparency and Stakeholder Communication)

The objectives of this Task Group remain unclear.  The Technical Committee charged the Task Group to recruit experts, poll them on how they communicate ISO/TC 266 progress via their national networks, and develop a one-page template to communicate ISO/TC 266 projects.

Plenary Session

Agenda items included recent updates to ISO procedures and reports from the Task Group, WG 2, and WG 4.  Canada provided an update synergies with ISO/TC 279 (Information Management).  ISO/TC 279 focuses on organisational frameworks for innovation, key to getting biom* imbedded at an organisation level.  ISO/TC 266 provides a novel way of introducing innovation into an organisation.   Canada reviewed progress on the Biomimetic Assessment Framework including a draft assessment of the PowerCone (described in Putting the Nosecone to Work).

Canada also proposed a Strategy Admin Group that would help define a long-term strategy for ISO/TC 266, assist in the launching of new projects, and define Critical Success Factors/Key Performance Indicators for these projects.  The Technical Committee agreed to form a Chair's Advisory Group which serves a similar role.

No location was decided for the 2017 annual meeting.  Unless a country volunteers to host the meeting, it will be held in Berlin again.

Next Steps

  1. Finalise the PowerCone assessment and complete the assessment of the Encycle Swarm Controller.  These will be distributed to the Technical Committee as well as outside of ISO/TC 266 to gain input and build a broad international consensus.
  2. Launch the Chair's Advisory Group (CAG): engage participating/observer members, collectively develop goals and objectives.
  3. Continue supporting the efforts of Working Group 4 “Knowledge Infrastructure of Biomimetics”.
  4. Map out the Canadian biom* landscape (key academic institutions/labs and businesses involved in biomimetics).
  5. Develop a funding plan to support Canadian ISO/TC 266 initiatives. 
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nhoeller's picture

Activity Since 2016 Berlin ISO/TC 266 Annual Meeting

The ISO/TC 266 Chair's Advisory Group (CAG) is making slow but steady progress.  Six of the nine participating countries are represented on the CAG, along with the convenors of three working groups.  A 'wish list' exercise in the 1st quarter identified several actions:

  • identify and communicate trends in biomimetics
  • define a long-term mandate that will lead to an ongoing series of ISO/TC 266 projects
  • leverage the diverse ISO/TC 266 perspectives and expertise
  • actively engage business/industry, NGOs, and government agencies

One-on-one discussions with CAG members suggests that involving business/industry is key to making progress on these actions.  Ultimately, it is the implementation of biomimetics by business and industry that will validate biomimetics.  Business/industry participation would help ground the work of ISO/TC 266 and identify areas where ISO/TC 266 can make a difference.  Several reasons for the low business/industry participation have been suggested, such as concerns about revealing Intellectual Property and increasing self-sufficiency through in-house biomimetic expertise.  One model the CAG is exploring is the British Standards Institution guideline Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organisations ​( that speaks the language of business and addresses strategic (organisational) challenges to success rather than focusing on tactics.  

ISO 18458 included three criteria to help determine whether a product/service is biomimetic.  The Biomimetic Assessment Framework (BAF) project helps operationalise the three criteria.  A BAF workbook has been created and tested on the PowerCone innovation (described in Putting the Nosecone to Work) - version 4 is being finalised.  The BAF is focused on biomimetic assessment - although it captures outcomes, it does not address many of the business aspects related to 'making biom* real'.  A few BIDC members are working on a proposal for a longitudinal study of biom* innovation, tracking progress from the prototype stage to commercialization.  If you are interested in helping with either of these projects, please let me know.

Thanks, Norbert

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nhoeller's picture

Update on the 2017 Berlin ISO/TC 266 Annual Meeting

The ISO/TC 266 2017 annual meeting was held in Berlin, with working group meetings on October 4th and the plenary session on October 5th.  Germany, Japan and Canada attended in person.  Switzerland and Belgium participating in the Chair's Advisory Group meeting via WebEx.

Working Group 4 Update​ (Knowledge Infrastructure for Biomimetics)

Japan is continuing work on a Technical Report on the Japanese Ontology Enhanced Thesaurus and Keyword Explorer.  Japan also wants to develop Technical Reports on BioTRIZ and research on image search.  Details are sketchy.

Task Group Update (Transparency and Stakeholder Communication)

​The convenor proposed disbanding the task group and incorporating its goals into the Chair's Advisory Group.

Chair's Advisory Group Update

​We had fourteen participants representing five countries.  There was a consensus that ISO/TC 266 should actively engage business and industry, using multiple entry levels from practitioners to business readers.  A potential model is the British Standards Institution guideline BS 8001 Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations ​that uses business language to explore the strategic business importance of implementing circular economy concepts.   There was also interest in exploring partnerships, both within the biom* community to improve collaboration and with other organizations such as industry associations, design/innovation groups, consultants, and academics. 

Canada proposed that ISO/TC 266 adopt a hybrid model for developing future deliverables, with much of the work being down outside of the ISO process, facilitating participation by international experts who are not members of ISO/TC 266.  Under this approach, pre-ISO working documents remain the copyright of the original authors which creates opportunities to continue engaging the wider international community and increase interest in the ISO/TC 266 deliverables. 

The CAG members identified an extensive list of possible initiatives.  The Chair challenged the CAG to develop a short list of action items - ten CAG members agreed to continue the discussion.

Plenary Session

To improve the effectiveness of ISO/TC 266 liaisons, liaison officers will be asked to provide clear 'scope statements'.  Minor changes were made to the Business Plan, with future changes depended on progress with CAG initiatives.  The next annual meeting is tentatively scheduled for the last week of September 2018. 

Next Steps

  1. Canada will be working informally with CAG members to advance the Biomimetic Assessment Framework.
  2. Canada is working with the CAG core group on a framework to guide CAG discussions on the Chair's action list, engaging additional non-ISO resources as appropriate. 
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