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How can Geckos improve space travel?

Abigaille wall-crawler robot

Since 2007, students at Simon Fraser University have been working on putting wall-climbing robots in space. The problem? You can’t use suction in a vacuum, and conventional adhesives or magnets won’t work.

To overcome those challenges, the team designed an eight-legged arachnid structure that can crawl over, on or around any obstacle it encounters.

In much the same way that geckos climb up panes of glass or across a ceiling, the robot’s feet are composed of hairs that are so tiny, they adhere to surfaces at the atomic level. Thanks to the wonders of nature, putting wall-climbing robots in space is now a mission accomplished.

Photo copyright Simon Fraser University School of Engineering Science/MENRVA

Change Your World

Biomimicry is a rapidly expanding field that’s transforming the way we think, design, package, produce and distribute goods and services. It changes everything.

  • ECONOMIC IMPACT: Biomimicry is projected to account for $425 billion of GDP and account for over 1.6 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030.

  • INSPIRING INNOVATION: Companies are applying biomimicry to increase energy and resource productivity, eliminate the concept of waste and enhance business resilience.

  • TALENT: Attract and retain the best and most creative people by offering them the platform for world-changing work.

  • TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE: Focus on people, profits and planet to coexist more symbiotically with the environment and local communities.

Biomimicry offers real, time-tested solutions. Because nature has had many attempts at these solutions, they require the lowest amount of energy, provide the most efficient investment and are most sustainable. You don’t want to invest in solutions that have to be abandoned in the future.

Peter Buca, Vice President of Technology and Innovation, Parker Hannifin

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 Product Innovation Services help organizations explore new opportunities, solve problems or drive sustainability by harnessing the intelligence found in nature’s 3.8 billion years of R&D.  Whether a company has a full-blown R&D department or is a small start-up with a good idea, Great Lakes Biomimicry, in collaboration with The University of Akron’s Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center, will lead or assist your design challenge.

Using the Great Lakes Biomimicry’s Innovation PlaybookTM, critical elements of our process include: 

  • Tap into nature’s genius through investigation of biological forms, processes, patterns and systems as potential candidates for technical emulation.
  • Utilize a diverse set of human assets offered through Great Lakes Biomimicry, The University of Akron’s BRIC (Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center) and other biomimicry collaborative experts in biology, design, chemistry, engineering, material sciences and business. 
  • Although the process is presented in a linear fashion, it is actually iterative. Insights uncovered at any stage may require a return to and repeat of one or several of the earlier stages in order to achieve optimal results.
  • Intellectual property generation increases as progression is made through the stages. Since biological forms, processes and systems cannot be patented, very little patentable intellectual property is generated in the early stages of the process. However, successful execution of later stages is likely to generate intellectual property which can lead to potentially patentable innovations.   

Let us take you to the solution space that’s created when looking through a biomimetic lens. The application can be for a product, process or systems-wide approach. For more information, contact Trisha Brown at [email protected]

Professional Education Workshops

We will help you accelerate the adoption, integration and application of biomimicry into your organization.

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Corporate Fellows

Corporate Fellows are students from around the world who are enrolled in The University of Akron’s Integrated Biosciences Ph.D. program with training in biomimicry -- a program that exists due to a collaboration with our organization. The Fellows are embedded into businesses, doing R&D, evaluating operations and teaching companies how to look at processes through a biomimetic lens, spurring innovation and solving problems. 

Current corporate sponsors: Avon Lake Regional Water, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, The J.M. Smucker Company, Kimberly-Clark, Lubrizol, and Nottingham Spirk.

Current industry/government sponsors: Biohabitats, Cleveland Water Alliance and NASA Glenn Research Center. 

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. Both worked for Corporate Sponsors. 

  • Bor-Kai (Bill) Hsiung, who was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, led game-changing research inspired by blue tarantulas that could revolutionize how colors are manufactured. He successfully designed and manufactured a proof-of-concept prototype that has commercialization potential resulting from biological research.
  • Emily Kennedy, sponsored by GOJO Industries, influenced biologically-based improvements for energy-efficient soap dispensers, protective topical treatments, versatile dispenser brackets and infection control products/processes. She was an inventor on four GOJO patent applications. 
  • Bill and Emily also formed Hedgemon, an early startup business in Cleveland that is developing a hedgehog-inspired product for use in helmets as concussion prevention.

Contact us to learn more about sponsoring a Fellow: [email protected].  


Companies that sponsor Biomimicry Ph.D. Fellows meet quarterly to discuss their unique experiences, challenges and ideas about incorporating biomimicry into their work. Collaborations are forged so companies can work together to solve problems.

Unique Innovation Sessions allow members to work together in a space without boundaries, leading to new ways of thinking and excitement around biomimicry's potential. Read about our 2016 Innovation Session with GOJO Industries and University Hospitals here.

To our knowledge, no other location in the world has achieved this significant level of corporate collaboration around biomimicry and innovation. 

Contact us if you're interested in becoming a sponsor and member of the Corporate Innovation Council: [email protected]

Great Lakes Biomimicry Technology Center

Northeast Ohio is a hot spot for biomimicry and technology innovation. Plans are underway to create the Biomimicry Open Innovation Commercialization Hub in the Desich SMART Center at Lorain County Community College (LCCC).

The first of its kind to integrate the disciplines of biomimicry and business development, the center will serve as the hub for regional biomimetic tech transfer. We will enlist researchers in an open innovation model and move research projects through the commercialization process to develop successful products.

This collaboration will serve as an international model for embedding biomimicry into regional economic development and for developing human talent in the rapidly expanding field of biomimicry.

Clean Water Solutions

Clean water is necessary for life. Northeast Ohio has an abundance of fresh water but is plagued with problems like algal blooms and pollution. Through a partnership with the Cleveland Water Alliance, Avon Lake Regional Water and NASA, Ph.D. Fellows will work on water quality issues by asking: How does nature clean water?

Business Incubation

To help drive economic growth and spur innovation in NEO, a biomimicry incubator at LCCC will be open to all entrepreneurs developing innovations inspired by nature. The incubator will offer space, business coaching and mentoring to all eligible entrepreneurs in the Northeast Ohio region.

SMART Center