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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?

Biomimicry is the practice of learning from nature and emulating its forms, processes and systems to solve human problems and drive innovation. People started doing this a long time ago: Leonardo da Vinci observed nature, which was reflected in his design drawings, and the Wright brothers studied bird wings to create flight.

Throughout the world and across industries, people are drawing from nature’s genius once again. A product inspired by sharkskin actually repels bacteria by design, not chemicals – perfect for use in medical settings. Japan’s bullet train was redesigned thanks to a birdwatcher and engineer who was inspired by the kingfisher’s seamless entry into water and the owl’s near silent flight. (The train is now quieter, 10% faster and uses 15% less electricity.) Velcro was inspired by burdock burrs, which easily stick to your clothes through a hook-and-loop design.

The beauty of biomimicry is that by mimicking nature, we can create life-friendly products, buildings and cities. Teams can work together more intelligently when operating as a living system. Educators can better engage students in STEM and connect their communities to nature. When we closely align to nature's principles, our world can flourish.

Worldwide Impact

In the next decade, biomimicry is expected to:

Contribute $425 billion annually to U.S. GDP
Provide $500 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

great lakes biomimicry

We help organizations learn from nature to accelerate innovation.


Great Lakes Biomimicry is an entrepreneurial non-profit organization with a mission to create the conditions for innovation inspired by nature. 


Our vision is that the Great Lakes Region is a biomimicry hub where innovation inspired by nature creates a sustainable, competitive advantage for the economy, leading to healthy growth.

Our team:

  • Provides Innovation Services consulting to companies using our Innovation Playbook™ 
  • Collaborates with The University of Akron to deliver the world's first Biomimicry Fellowship Program
  • Runs the world's only biomimicry Corporate Innovation Council
  • Provides Professional Education to help organizations integrate biomimicry thinking into innovation processes 
  • Offers Educator Academies and community programs to spark interest in the emerging field of biomimicry


Great Lakes Biomimicry (known locally as "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 funded a Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center at UA and created the world's only Biomimicry Ph.D. Fellowship Program. The first Fellows were recruited from Taiwan, Belgium, Germany and Australia in 2012. The program has since grown to include more students and sponsors, and in May 2017, the first two students in the program graduated.

Biomimicry education efforts focused on STEAM – 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 was created for local educators and the first Teacher Professional Development was offered in summer 2015. Collaborations were formed with regional institutions of higher learning, biomimicry clubs, environmental programs, parks and museums.

Professional Education Workshops and Innovation Services were developed, which embed biomimicry practices into a company’s 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.

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 into the organization. Of nearly 40 global biomimicry networks, GLBio is the first Affiliate Partner of the international organization Biomimicry 3.8.

Looking Ahead 

Since 2010, we have been single-minded about spreading the seeds of biomimicry thinking and opening up the space for elegant solutions based on the genius found in nature.

As Great Lakes Biomimicry moves into its next phase, we will use nature as our mentor and model so we can adapt, grow, and evolve, enabling us to build the resiliency that will enable us to thrive. We will be our own case study of how an organization can structure itself and operate with a conscious acceptance that we are part of the natural system, subject to the laws of nature.


Partners and Funders

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

Service Providers

Thank you to the agencies providing in-kind technical and professional services to support our operations:

Cohen & Company

Fay Sharpe

The Impact Group

Lorain County Community College

Marcus Thomas LLC

McMahon DeGulis

Thompson Hine

The University of Akron's Biomimicry and Research Innovation Center