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Top biomimetics theorist in Copenhagen

Biomimetics, also called bionics, is the technological mimicry of life. Top theorist of biomimetics has talked to the University Post before his talk in Copenhagen Wednesday

An aptitude to mimic life — biomimetics were born in the 1950s when, after observing the nerves of a squid, biophysicist and polymath Otto Schmitt, developed the so-called Schmitt trigger. Since then, technology has imitated nature numerous times, resulting in inventions ranging from velcro (inspired by the little hooks found in burr fruit), to artificial neural networks, which give computers the ability to interpret speech, handwriting, and visual stimuli.

This transfer from biology to technology, is what Dr. Julian Vincent will discuss in his inspirational talk for participants of the Summer School: ”Innovation inspired by Nature”. The talk will start at 1:00pm on Wednesday 28 August, and will take place at the Studio, at Copenhagen Business School (CBS).

“The discovery of a new technology can be made simply by looking at a natural system and understanding its function”, says Dr. Julian Vincent.

Think in terms of function

However, biomimetics is not that simple, he relates to the University Post. Being aware of “the unknown known” — things we don’t know that we know — is always the biggest challenge in developing the field.

“There are things we don’t have access to, due to people’s tendency to divide up knowledge into different areas”, Vincent says.

“Therefore, one of the things we need to do, and this is the “unknown known”, is to work out how to bridge between different disciplines, so you can take a result from one discipline and apply it to another totally different discipline”.

A food scientist who wants to break a seed, won’t ask a mineralogist, who breaks diamonds, for advice, even though the technique would be the same, Dr. Vincent explains. It is this kind of lateral thinking that biomimetics encourages.

Spot the function

In order to succeed one must think in terms of function, he says. If you think at the three cases previously described, the function is the same all of them, but the way, of which this function is applied, it is different.

At his seminar next Wednesday, he will talk about how one can spot functions and bridge between various disciplines, because “once you are able of doing that, it is incredibly easy to be creative. It is a matching game”.

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