The Royal Society - Biomimetics: its practice and theory

2010/12/10 updated link (paper can be downloaded for free)

Julian Vincent, Olga Bogatyreva, Nikolaj Bogatyrev, Adrian Bowyer and Anja-Karina Paul (University of Bath) submitted an article to The Royal Society on the process of transferring solutions from biology to technology, based on the concepts of the TRIZ problem solving methodology. 

TRIZ has developed a set of generic solutions that underlie innovation in technology.  The resolution of contradictions and conflicts is a key concept in TRIZ, where conflicts may reflect differences between goals and physical constraints, or as a result of solutions that have undesired consequences.  The University of Bath team has developed a BioTRIZ model that analyses "the biological route to the resolution of conflicts." 

The research has uncovered some intriguing results.  Although the underlying problems are often similar, biology uses different principles to solve those problems.  The report includes charts comparing the relative application of various transformations in biology and technology across a range of sizes.  Biology tends to emphasize information and structure, while technology uses energy and (to a lesser extent) substance.  Technological solutions also vary greatly with scale, while the principles behind biological solutions tend to apply across a wide range of scales.  Systems or hierarchical solutions are also much more prevalent in biology - in comparison the technology bias towards 'point' solutions often leads to unintended consequences once those solutions are imbedded in systems.

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