How has the Kingfisher changed transportation?

Shinkansen Bullet Train

Japanese trains were breaking the sound barrier, but it wasn’t any fun for the residents nearby. Every time the Shinkansen trains went in and out of tunnels, a giant boom jolted throughout the town.

Inspired by the kingfisher’s ability to dive head first into water without creating any splash at all, the train company adopted a completely new look.

The shape of the kingfisher’s beak has always broke through the surface of water seamlessly, but now it’s reducing air pressure by 30% in Japanese trains, allowing transportation to reach record speeds.

What Is Biomimicry?

Embraced by visionaries, including da Vinci and the Wright Brothers, biomimicry (bios meaning life and mimesis to imitate) is a new discipline. It studies nature’s best ideas, then imitates those designs and processes to solve human problems.

Early results have been extraordinary. A bullet train modeled off the kingfisher and owl saves energy and no longer creates thunder-like booms when exiting tunnels. A self-cleaning surface was inspired by the lotus leaf’s structure. A new surface reduces the growth of bacteria using a microscopic pattern that mimics sharkskin.

Potential for Ohio

Biomimicry can lead to revolutionary change in Northeast Ohio’s economy, transforming the way we think about designing, producing, transporting and distributing goods and services. By embedding biomimicry into the educational system and helping businesses solve problems using nature-inspired innovations, we intend to turn Northeast Ohio into the “Silicon Valley” of biomimicry.

Worldwide Impact

In the next decade, biomimicry is expected to:

Contribute $425 billion annually to U.S. GDP
Provide $50 billion mitigating natural resource depletion/reducing CO2 pollution
Represent about $1.6 trillion of global GDP
Account for 2 million U.S. jobs (by 2030)

Data provided by Fermanian Business and Economic Institute, Nazarene University

What Would Nature Do?

Faced with a challenge, Parker Hannifin asked: What would nature do?

Parker Hannifin’s Cergom™ hose extended the life of abrasive material-handling pipes from two weeks to over six years.

View Case Study

Our Mission and History


Great Lakes Biomimicry is a hybrid, entrepreneurial 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to create conditions for innovation through biomimicry.


  • Make Northeast Ohio the global application center for educationally-driven economic development by 2020.

  • Ensure Northeast Ohio has abundant biomimicry-trained talent to support an innovation-based economy by 2020.

  • Deliver economic value for Northeast Ohio businesses and competitive advantage for the region.


Great Lakes Biomimicry (GLBio) was born in July 2010 when serial entrepreneur Tom Tyrrell partnered with Don Knechtges, the founder of GLIDE (Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise), and Dr. Peter Niewiarowski, evolutionary biologist at The University of Akron (UA). GLBio was created as a collaborative, educationally-driven solution to Northeast Ohio’s economic development effort.

GLBio and UA developed a proposal that was awarded $4.25 million initially plus $2.5 million annually to fund a Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center at UA. The first Fellows – students who were part of UA’s Integrated Bioscience Ph.D. program – were recruited from Taiwan, Belgium, Germany and Australia in 2012. In fall 2015, nine new Fellows – from Finland, Portugal and throughout the United States – were added to the program and placed with new sponsors.

Biomimicry education efforts began to build “STE(A)M,” integrating biology, chemistry, engineering, social studies, language arts, creative arts and other subjects. The first set of educational partnerships were developed with schools in Akron, Cleveland and Lorain, including National Inventors Hall of Fame, Elyria High School, Lake Ridge Academy and MC2 STEM High School. We joined the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to help deliver a biomimicry-based science curriculum to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Our Education Consortium continues to grow with educators and the first Teacher Professional Development was offered in summer 2015. In 2016, we’ll foster even more collaborations with regional institutions of higher learning, biomimicry clubs, environmental programs, parks and museums.

Professional Education Workshops and Product Innovation Services were developed, which embed biomimicry practices into Northeast Ohio businesses’ culture and R&D processes. We were invited to form a consortium with Ohio Aerospace Institute and NASA, and the Great Lakes Biomimicry Technology Center at Lorain County Community College was developed.

In May 2017, the first two students in the world with Ph.D.-level training in biomimicry graduated from our program at The University of Akron.  

To date, we have attracted Biomimicry Ph.D. Fellows from across the globe, raised over $2 million in Fellow stipends, received $425,000 of in-kind support from service partners, partnered with over 30 agencies, businesses and schools, and invested more than 33,000 volunteer hours. Of nearly 40 global network locations, GLBio is the first Affiliate Partner of the international organization Biomimicry 3.8.

Brand Identity: Thought Process

Our new look was created by Cleveland-based Marcus Thomas and launched in early 2016. The logo designer was inspired by the Great Lakes (our namesake and home base) and an abstract spiral, playing on the nautilus pattern found throughout our natural world. The end result is a unique and beautiful logo that resonates with people in different ways. Some say it’s a propeller, or flower petals or animal paws. What do YOU see?

Thought Process

Partners and Funders

Through symbiotic relationships with our partners, we are building an ecosystem that supports biomimetic education and innovation.