EPFL’s Bioinspired Projects Platform assembles research laboratories and educational initiatives that use remarkable properties of living organisms to solve real world challenges. We are a multidisciplinary community of 33 laboratories that are conducting more than 50 scientific projects on bio-inspired materials, robotics & electronics, computing, green energy & chemistry and bioengineering.
WHAT IS BIO-INSPIRED INNOVATION?
Bio or nature inspired innovation is an approach that seeks solutions to human challenges within the natural world. It is a scientific approach based on mathematics, physics and chemistry of life. The uniqueness of solutions found in the natural world lie in the 3.8 billion years of evolutionary selection and fine tuning that have given rise to the most advanced, creative and sustainable solution to conditions on planet Earth. Bioinspired research draws upon that knowledge in order to create disruptive innovation for cleaner and greener future.
Nature designs things profoundly different than we do, and as such provides us with the ready to use catalog of evolutionary tested solutions. Human problem solving is mainly based on high temperature and pressure processes that use scarce and limited resources, generate “useless” waste and are linear by design. In nature materials are expensive, leading to solutions that relay on abundant resources and minimum material usage (lightweight, nanostructures). Toxic chemistry, high temperatures and pressure are destructive for life, forcing organisms to find more elegant design pathways (green chemistry). Feedback loops and highly developed sensing systems make organisms constantly adaptable to their environment and prepared for change and resilience (locally attuned and responsive). The interconnectedness of organisms within populations and ecosystems has created not only highly optimal individuals but also redundant and self-organized systems (collective intelligence, complex networks).
Due to these differences and urging needs for better and more sustainable solutions da Vinci index forecasted that by 2030 bioinspired innovation will have an impact on GDP by at least 410 billion US-Dollars, creating millions of new jobs, products and patents.
At the EPFL bioinspired research is done using 3 different approaches:
1. Translating physical properties of organism to engineering solutions. Ex. Self-cleaning materials inspired by self-cleaning properties of plant leaves.
2. Translating principals under which natural systems operate to system based solutions. Ex. Artificial neuron network inspired by organization and adaptive learning of biological neural network.
3. Directly using properties of natural organisms to solve human challenges. Ex. Microorganisms for waste management, simply because microorganisms are already really good at degrading waste.