On Tuesday, the Biomimicry Institute and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation announced that the latest Biomimicry Global Design Challenge — an annual competition that invites people around the world to address critical sustainability issues using nature as a guide — is now accepting entries for commercially viable, nature-inspired solutions to this year’s theme: food system challenges. The grand prize, to be awarded in 2016, is $100,000.
“Our hope is that the Global Design Challenge will mobilize thousands of students and professionals around the world to tackle the problem of food security,” said Janine Benyus, biologist, author and founder of the Biomimicry Institute. “Our goal is to show how modeling nature can provide viable solutions to reduce hunger, while creating conditions conducive to all life. And we want to get those solutions to market as quickly as possible.”
The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge aims to accelerate market-ready, scalable solutions with a unique approach: Every two years, the Biomimicry Institute selects a key sustainability issue as a broad theme and focus for the Global Challenge. Each year, the competition begins with a design concept round followed by a prototype round (so each given theme will feature two design concept rounds, over the course of two years, each followed by a prototype round). Food system challenges will be the theme for 2015 and 2016.
The Global Challenge features two entry categories: an open category and a student-only category. All participants receive access to the Institute’s Design Challenge Toolbox and supporting resources, including sessions with mentors and biomimicry professionals.
“Beginning this October, we will select the top biomimetic design concepts and award approximately $50,000 in seed money to the finalists,” explained Beth Rattner, executive director of the Biomimicry Institute. “Then, with the support of a global network of mentors, finalists will spend the next several months completing their functional prototype, returning in May 2016 to compete for the $100,000 "Ray of Hope" grand prize. At that point we will select the next round of design concept finalists, and the cycle will begin anew.”
“Seeding and accelerating nature-inspired solutions to global challenges is the aim of this new partnership,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, and Anderson’s grandson.
Anderson, founder of sustainable flooring company Interface, was famously inspired by biomimicry. His carpet company was one of the first to invite Benyus to the design table, resulting in Interface’s best-selling carpet tile product, Entropy. Designed to mimic a forest floor, Entropy revolutionized carpet tile manufacturing and installation, resulting in little to no waste.
“I have to believe that my grandfather would have believed this new challenge is, as he would say, ‘so right and so smart,’” Lanier said. “With our support, the best ideas will be the seeds of new businesses that will carry forward Ray’s vision — that with nature as a guide, business and industry can change the world.”
Entries must be received by August 3, 2015.