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Walk like the animals Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Dec 17 2011 12:00 PM

Businesses in the South Bay looking to increase their bottom line can find it in an unusual place — nature.
Biomimicry, which is design inspired by nature, is the examination of nature’s structure, processes and elements to emulate or obtain inspiration to solve human problems.
At a South County Economic Development Council meeting Dec. 9, a presentation was given on the benefit of implementing biomimicry in businesses to save energy, create more efficiency and less waste.
During the presentation, examples of biomimicry were given by staff from San Diego Zoo Global using plants and animals.
For example, a giant river hippo has properties that act as an antiseptic, insect repellant and sunscreen. Also, an American alligator’s blood serum has antibodies in it that have fought off 16 disease-causing agents including herpes and AIDS, according to scientific research.
Speaker Jon Prange is the venture business manager of San Diego Zoo Global and called biomimicry “natural capitalism.” The company works with well-known San Diego companies.
Prange said biomimicry has the opportunity to build out the economy.
“Biomimicry has the potential to bring together the environment and the economy,” he said. “It allows businesses to cut their resources dramatically.”
Fortune 500 companies have derived major success from biomimicry.
For example, it was female boxfish that inspired Mercedes-Benz to create a bionic concept car and sharkskin in the 2008 Olympics that made swimmers swim faster.
“It’s about taking the wonders of nature and applying them,” Prange said.
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox attended the presentation and said that it’s important for the community to be on board with biometrics because of its benefits.
Cox said that biometrics has a future in Chula Vista with regard to education.
“Who would have thought even seven years ago that elementary school kids would create a robot that could throw a ping pong ball into a basket,” she said. “Biomimicry is incredibly fascinating.”
At Olivewood Gardens in National City, Executive Director Amy Carstensen teaches children hands-on gardening and cooking classes.
Carstensen said the concept of biomimicry is economically sound.
“As humans we could definitely be a little more mindful of what the environment has been doing for us for years,” she said.
Prange said that although the concept of biomimicry has been around for a long time, it’s still an emerging field.
“Biomimicry will ride the wave of many technologies,” he said. “There’s a need for sustainable solutions and the desire for innovation. This is the starting point to impact different industries.”
“Once you head down the path of innovation, where do you stop?” Prange said.
San Diego Zoo Global partnered with the city of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego State University and the University of San Diego to become the world’s first biomimicry hub to foster biomimicry as the new standard for nature-inspired research, education, innovation and investment.
“Inventors, companies and innovators have looked to nature in the past for inspiration,” Prange said. “It’s the order of magnitude that is going to change from an occasional observation and inspiration to a continuous, systematic approach to looking at nature and learning from the living library of information in nature.”
An economic impact study was done to see the future potential for the field of biomimicry.
In 15 years, biomimicry could represent $300 billion annually of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), could account for 1.6 million U.S. jobs by 2025 and represent about $1 trillion of GDP in 15 years globally, according to an economic impact study commissioned by San Diego Zoo Global in 2010.

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