Economic Impact

Bioinspiration synergistically meets environmental and economic goals. In 2010, San Diego Zoo Global commissioned an economic report by the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute (FBEI) at Point Loma Nazarene University to forecast the impact of biomimicry/bioinspiration. Text from this report is included below.

FBEI introduced the DaVinci index to provide a measure of activity in biomimicry or bioinspired research and commercial applications. It joins other frequently used indices, including the Index of Leading Economic Indicators, Case Shiller Home Price Index, Consumer Price Index, and the Index of Consumer Sentiment. Our hope has been that this index can promote awareness among business leaders, government policymakers, investors, and the media by providing a way to measure activity in one of the most promising and potentially revolutionary scientific fields of the 21st century. The Da Vinci Index is comprised of four sub-components

  • Number of Scholarly Articles (Source: Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge Database.)
  • Number of Patents (Source: United States Patent & Trademark Office.)
  • Number of Grants (Source: National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.)
  • Dollar Value of Grants (Source: National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.)

Biomimicry has experienced explosive growth during the past decade. The composite Da Vinci Index posted a seven-fold rise between 2000 and 2010, climbing from 100 to 713. This represents a 22% compound annual rate of growth. The number of U.S. patents has experienced a particularly rapid climb, jumping 14-fold between 2000 and 2010. Only 3 explicitly bioinspired patents were issued in 2000, while 41 were issued in 2010. The number of scholarly articles rose from 285 in 2000 to 1507 in 2010, representing more than a five-fold increase. The number of U.S. grants increased from 71 in 2000 to 224 in 2010 for a three-fold rise. The dollar value of these grants advanced from $24 million in 2000 to $93 million in 2010, representing nearly a four-fold rise. The Da Vinci Index and its sub-components document and underscore the dramatic rise in the field of biomimicry as it embarks on a course that could transform large parts of the U.S. and global economies. Key conclusions from the 2010 economic report are below:

  • Biomimicry could represent a revolutionary change in our economy by transforming many of the ways we think about designing, producing, transporting, and distributing goods and services.
  • Biomimicry, the discipline of applying nature’s principles to solve human problems, provides the means to achieve both environmental and economic goals. Many of the mechanisms and systems found in nature are highly efficient, eschew waste, and are sustainable in a virtually closed system. Biomimicry could be a major economic game changer.
  • While the field today is just emerging, in 15 years biomimicry could represent $300 billion annually of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 dollars. It could provide another $50 billion in terms of mitigating the depletion of various natural resources and reducing CO2 pollution. Biomimicry could account for 1.6 million U.S. jobs by 2025. Globally, biomimicry could represent about $1.0 trillion of GDP in 15 years.
  • The applications of biomimicry to commercial use could transform large slices of various industries in coming years and ultimately impact all segments of the economy. Industries that could be particularly affected include utilities, transportation equipment, chemical manufacturing, warehousing/storage, and waste management, architecture and engineering.

  • Two very different approaches are followed in the use of biomimicry. In some cases, scientists see an interesting concept in nature and then find a commercial application. In other instances, firms are seeking a solution to a specific problem and find an answer in the natural world.
  • Firms selling biomimicry-inspired products in the marketplace have frequently seen a doubling of sales annually in the early years. Many of these products can offer customers reduced energy requirements, less waste, and enhanced performance while being sold at prices competitive with or even less than those of existing products.
  • Constraints faced by firms attempting to commercialize biomimicry products include the challenge of educating and convincing customers resistant to change, finding sufficient capital unless backed by a large firm, developing new supply chains, and moving from small to larger scale operations.
  • Investors should be attracted to biomimicry because of the prospects for rapid sales growth and high rates of return. Venture capital could flow into biomimicry at a pace at least equal to that of biotech, estimated at $4.5 billion for 2010.
  • San Diego appears well positioned to become a hub for biomimicry. The region possesses four key characteristics: intellectual resources, capital, a strong entrepreneurial base, and a collaborative environment. The San Diego Zoo, with its rich animal and plant collection together with its existing research institute for conservation, appears well suited to lead such a hub.
  • A cluster of 1,000 biologists, naturalists and other scientists could form in San Diego over the next 15 years as a biomimicry core to help take solutions in the natural world to commercial application. Including all of the ripple or multiplier effects, this cluster could generate a total of 2,100 jobs and add $325 million to San Diego’s gross regional product annually by 2025. Biomimicry could emerge as San Diego’s next major economic driver, complementing and enhancing such clusters as biotech and cleantech.

An Update to this Economic Report will be announced at the 2013 Bioinspiration Conference. Download the full report here.