The Biomimicry Institute was founded in 2006 by Janine Benyus, Bryony Schwan, and Dayna Baumeister to share nature’s lessons with the people who design and make our world. We began by working directly with educators from K-12, university, and non-formal (museums, zoos, aquariums) environments to naturalize biomimicry in the educational system, and ensure the next generation of changemakers had the tools to integrate biomimicry in their careers.
In 2008, we launched a free, online database of biological solutions that could provide insight into solving design challenges. This award-winning website called AskNature.org has helped students, educators, and practitioners around the globe look to nature for regenerative design inspiration and advice. You can also find lesson plans, classroom exercises, and educator resources.
We also created the Biomimicry Student Design Challenge in 2008 as an opportunity for university students studying biomimicry to apply their knowledge and skills to address critical sustainability issues with nature-inspired solutions. Challenges were focused on broad topics such as energy, transportation, water, and food. This program would later become the initial feeder for the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, Biomimicry Launchpad, and Ray of Hope Prize.
As our programs evolved, we began working closely with our sister organization, the Biomimicry Guild, a for-profit consulting company co-founded by Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister. In 2010 we embarked on an experiment and united with the Guild under a shared brand, Biomimicry 3.8 Institute, as a non-profit/for-profit hybrid organization. In 2014, the two entities decided to revert to the original model of dual brands in order to more effectively achieve our missions. The for-profit consultancy is now Biomimicry 3.8, while the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is the Biomimicry Institute.
In 2015, we launched the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge to empower young adults to learn how to create designs, systems, materials, and chemistry that are inspired and informed by nature. By 2021, we saw the opportunity to hone our focus on research labs and scientists to equip them with the skills and tools they need to turn their work into scalable startups. Thus the Biomimicry Launchpad program evolved to provide necessary training, connections, and resources for nature-inspired scientists and innovators who otherwise wouldn’t have thought about commercializing their work. From its inception through its conclusion in 2021, the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge provided the opportunity for over 4,800 university students and young professionals to gain hands-on biomimicry experience. By introducing them to biomimicry’s design methodology and sustainability mindset, those emerging leaders have created design concepts addressing some of the biggest social and environmental issues facing the world today. We rely on the 30+ groups in our Biomimicry Global Network to help support university students and advancing education regionally.
The Ray of Hope Prize was born in 2016 and was created with the generous support from our partner, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The program identifies the top nature-inspired startups in the world and fosters their growth by providing sustainable business training, communications support, and opportunities for non-dilutive funding—the top being a $100,000 equity-free prize. Armed with nature’s billions years of research and development, these startups are uniquely suited to address critical environmental and social issues at scale.
We launched the first Youth Design Challenge in 2018 to serve 6-12-grade students and educators, and it has since evolved year-after-year reaching thousands more learners across the globe. Through professional learning opportunities, we help educators and districts see science as a vehicle for addressing access and equity, building literacy and mathematical skills, and for student sense-making about their place in the world. We support them in easily bringing STEM-based biomimicry lessons into course curriculum, and our mission is to empower a new generation of nature-inspired and nature-connected innovators with those who value environmental education and social-emotional learning. In 2021, we initiated the process of developing a comprehensive nature-inspired curriculum for elementary students, in partnership with the Green Schools National Network.
In 2021, we also launched Design for Decomposition, a two-year, multi-million dollar project to demonstrate scalable new pathways for ~92 million tonnes of fashion waste discarded annually by embracing true decomposition—the way leaves break down into soil—that builds healthy ecosystems. After proving that advanced decomposition is viable locally, the joint partnership plans to prove that this system change can scale globally.
Our mission is to further the education and adoption of nature-inspired design, and we could not do what we do without the generous support of our donors and community. Facing a global climate crisis, systemic social inequity, a viral pandemic, and an unprecedented time of uncertainty and reliance on technology, we recognize how deeply interconnected we all are and how change must happen now. We champion collaboration and reciprocity and want to help you on your biomimicry journey wherever that may be during this time. Please consider joining the Biomimicry Global Network and reaching out to bring an expert speaker to your group so together we can connect, find hope, and heal ourselves and the planet together.