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The Biomimicry Institute: Driving Education and Collaboration

Founded three years ago, the Biomimicry Institute has developed a wide range of programs and activities to spread the word about biomimicry, advance research and education, and provide environments for collaboration.

The non-profit recently published its first report, "The Biomimicry Institute: '06 to '09," giving an introduction to everything it does and laying out an overview of what it's accomplished in its first three years.

The Biomimicry Institute was created by co-founder Janine Benyus (who coined the term biomimicry in her 1997 book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature") to provide a central point for information, resources and collaboration related to biomimicry.

In growing from one staff member and a $25,000 seed grant to a 10-person staff with a $1.3 million annual budget, the Biomimicry Institute has developed a range of school curricula (available for free from its website), established biomimicry programs at universities, set up an on-line biomimicry portal, created an annual summit and provided lectures, workshops and exhibits around the world.

Last November, the Biomimicry Institute launched, a free online database of examples of nature's solutions to problems, along with information on existing or possible applications for the methods described. The website now has more than 2,400 registered users from 196 countries.

The non-profit also developed its Two-year Certificate Program to give professionals a deeper knowledge of biomimicry. The program includes online instruction, independent study, group collaboration and five week-long sessions in person. The first class took 16 students, and there is now a 200-person waiting list for the 2010 class.

Along with providing curricula for educators to download and use, the group produced "Ask The Planet," a CD of songs about biomimicry sung by children. The Biomimicry Institute plans to expand its Educator's Network section on its website to include space for educators to share their own ideas and curricula.

The group also aims to integrate biomimicry into all levels of education, and has been working with Arizona State University, Iberoamericana University in Mexico City and the Ontario College of Art & Design to develop programs that would allow students to graduate with an emphasis on biomimicry. The institute plans to bring formal biomimicry programs to at least three institutions a year.

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