CHALLENGE Brief

"Adapt to that which you can't prevent, prevent that to which you can't adapt."-BILL MCKIBBEN

Earth has always been a changing planet, but the climate and ecological changes humans have set in motion in the last century are like nothing our species has experienced before. Hungry for energy, food, and other resources, our growing populations are pushing Earth’s systems toward a frightening and well-documented tipping point. The science is clear, and so is our imperative. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, the human community must find ways to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change—and ideally reverse it’s dangerous course altogether.

Our challenge is this: Create a nature-inspired innovation (a product, service, or system) that combats climate change by either:

  • Helping communities adapt to or mitigate climate change impacts (i.e. those forecasted or already in motion), and/or
  • Reversing or slowing climate change itself (e.g. by removing excess greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere).

Why nature-inspired?

Nature is the best model we have for a sustainable, regenerative way of life. In order for humans to persist and thrive on a healthy planet, our systems must work in concert with nature’s systems. Biomimicry provides a pathway to the solutions we need to accomplish this. Consider how plants effortlessly turn CO2 into energy and materials every hour that the sun shines. What if we learned to do the same? What if CO2 were not the poison of our era, but instead the feedstock of a global carbon-sequestering economy? Nature offers incredible inspiration and time-tested strategies that can be emulated and applied to climate change issues in realms as diverse as energy, water, transportation, buildings and infrastructure, food systems, health, behavior change, and more. Visit our Climate Change collection on AskNature to learn more.

What are we looking for?

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge calls for design concepts addressing any aspect of climate change adaptation, mitigation, and reversal in any sector of the economy. We know that climate change is a complex problem; a hairy knot made up of hundreds, or even thousands, of other problems all woven together. But this diversity means there are also just as many solutions out there waiting to be discovered. Successful teams will define a concrete, well researched area of focus for their design efforts and apply the core concepts and methods of biomimicry in developing a solution. We are especially interested in projects that go beyond familiar approaches to the climate problem by identifying unique leverage points for change, removing barriers to the adoption and spread of existing solutions, and/or clearly demonstrating how biomimicry can lead to new, novel, or more effective solutions.

What are we NOT looking for?

  • Biomimicry after the fact: If you already have a design solution, please do not retroactively argue that it is biomimetic or “like nature” just to apply to this challenge. Often it is quite obvious to our judges when this is the case. If you are working with an existing design, we’d rather see how you applied biomimicry to improve it. How can learning from nature lead you to a stronger, more sustainable outcome?
  • Common characters:  As news stories and information about biomimicry has spread, many case studies and biological strategies have become common (e.g. the water capturing abilities of the Namib Desert beetle). While this is great for public awareness, creativity and innovation are limited when designers don’t look beyond the common cast of characters. For this reason, designs that rely on biological strategies, design concepts, or biomimetic technologies that have already been well documented should offer significant comparative advantages or greater depth of emulation.