Biomimicry: City of San Diego Collaboration

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Two Arctic foxes sniff out a solution together.

In 2007, we began having conversations with the City of San Diego about the field of biomimicry.  The resulting collaboration with the City of San Diego has been an important foundation for the emergence of this field in San Diego and a wonderful impetus for collaboration, as well.

For our scientists at the Zoo, our business is the science of saving species, and we know that the loss of natural habitat is a major contributing factor threatening biodiversity. The field of biomimicry offers a bridge between the economy and the environment. Biomimicry involves learning from nature and being inspired by nature for new ideas for designs that are sustainable, efficient, and effective.

We have begun to realize that our beautiful Zoo and Safari Park can actually provide inspiration for innovation and growth in the economy. By observing nature, new ideas for efficient and sustainable innovations can replace the old products, processes, and designs from the industrial age. This could be good for the habitat, which in turn is good for the species.

The Zoo has stepped up efforts to share its knowledge of nature and conservation and become more proactive in conversations about innovation and the economy.  All of this led to the conversations with Jacques Chirazi and the City of San Diego about the exciting work the City is doing to make San Diego a hub for clean technology.

In April 2007, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the formation of the City’s Cleantech Initiative, an effort to promote the expansion and retention of businesses that develop products and technologies that provides environmental sustainable solutions. In 2007 there were a total of 162 cleantech companies in the region; today there are approximately 450 cleantech companies, including more than 190 which are developing or providing renewable energy solutions.

After discussions with the Zoo team, City staff realized that San Diego could play a significant role in promoting this field locally and nationally. San Diego is known in the nation and around the world as a hub for innovations and has prided itself on its biotech, wireless telecommunications, aerospace, cleantech, and other technology clusters.  After several meetings, we realized that San Diego could be a natural fit as a biomimicry hub focusing on commercialization of biomimetic solutions and the design and development of new educational curriculums. For the City of San Diego, supporting the cultivation of biomimicry falls under the Mayor’s Cleantech Initiative. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global is renowned worldwide for its facilities, research, and global conservation efforts, which make the San Diego region uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in this emerging field.

San Diego Zoo Global and the City of San Diego have also been working with other partners (i.e., San Diego State University, University of California, San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University, University of San Diego, and CONNECT) to increase awareness of biomimicry and help establish San Diego as a leading location for biomimicry development. The City is committed to provide support for the development of biomimicry in San Diego and will continue to work with San Diego Zoo Global and its local partners to make this goal a reality.

Jon Prange is the venture business manager for San Diego Zoo Global; Jacques Chirazi is the program manager for Cleantech, City of San Diego. Read Jon’s previous post, A Prescription for New Ideas.