Sustainable Energy

Breaking the Mold with Biomimicry

Emily Kennedy


By Emily Kennedy

Biomimicry Fellow, GOJO

In September, the University of Akron hosted a TEDx event, which showcases a series of speakers with “ideas worth spreading.” The theme of TEDxUniversityofAkron was "Breaking the Mold,” which means doing things differently in a way that challenges social norms and drives innovation to its true potential. I was honored to be an invited speaker and talk about how my career in biomimicry is breaking the mold.

Biomimicry is an emerging discipline focused on learning from and emulating biological forms, processes, patterns, and systems to create more sustainable designs. It’s based on the idea that evolution has been vetting strategies for billions of years, and natural selection tends to favor high-performing, resource-efficient survival strategies.

In my talk, “From a Burning River to Biomimicry,” I described how Northeast Ohio is shedding its Rust Belt reputation and becoming a world-renowned hub for sustainable innovation inspired by nature. I also discussed how I’m contributing to this transformation as a member of the first cohort of University of Akron Biomimicry Fellows.

The Biomimicry Fellowship Program, which Great Lakes Biomimicry helped launch, establishes research, technology and capability building partnerships between PhD students and external sponsors.

GOJO, a recognized leader in sustainability and Open Innovation, was one of the first companies to sponsor a Biomimicry Fellow, and I’m proud to be that Fellow. Since 2012, I’ve worked with GOJO through an industrial assistantship training innovators to explore biology as a source of creative inspiration and model for environmental sustainability.

At GOJO, biomimicry is energizing sustainable product innovation. For example, biomimicry led to a next generation, heart-inspired pump for use in a soap/sanitizer dispenser projecting energy savings of up to 80 percent. Energy savings of this magnitude reduce battery power requirements, which, in turn, reduce freight costs, because batteries are the heaviest component of the dispenser.

Learn more about how biomimicry is helping generate Sustainable Value at GOJO by watching my newly released TED Talk and reading this April 2015 post by Tom Marting, Facilities and Resource Management Director at GOJO and champion of biomimicry. Then get outside, flip through a biology text, or watch a nature documentary. The answer to your next big innovation challenge may be atop a mountain, in the deep sea, or right in your own backyard!

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