Biomimicry and Business: Learning from Nature

Module description


The module will look at how nature is inspiring innovations that: increase energy and resource productivity; eliminate the concept of waste; catalyse the shift from product to service-oriented economies; build natural and social capital, and enhance business resilience. The module will cover systems thinking; Gaia Theory; ecosystem principles and concepts; and ecological design frameworks informed by nature such as Biomimicry Life Principles, Cradle to Cradle, the Natural Step; and the nature-inspired Firm of the Future. It also provides an opportunity to think more philosophically about the natural world and our place within it. It will explore contested narratives about people and nature and how diverse perspectives are embedded in policies, institutions, leadership styles and business models. The module will include a short residential period off campus, that will provide an opportunity for experiential learning, working on a design challenge, discussion, debate and storytelling that will give you a direct experience of the interconnectedness and interdependence of natural and human systems.

Additional Information:

Internationalisation: The concepts of biomimicry are, by definition, global in nature and application.

Employability: The module will enhance your debating and communication skills, your ability to communicate sustainable business concepts and think more innovatively.

Sustainability: Learning from nature is a fundamental concept underpinning sustainability.

Corporate Engagement: Guest speakers will contribute to the module, including Atos Consulting.

Full module specification

Module title:Biomimicry and Business: Learning from Nature
Module code:MBAM821
Module level:M
Academic year:2014/5
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Sally Jeanrenaud - Convenor
Module credit:12
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 3:

4-day module (+ 8 weeks study)

Module aims

The objectives of this module are to explore how business is learning from nature to design smarter products, processes and systems, and to critically examine the relevance of ecological design to human systems.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. evaluate key ecoliteracy concepts and their relevance to business: systems thinking; Gaia theory, learning from nature; collaborative practice and learning.
  • 2. evaluate sustainability design frameworks inspired by nature (such as Natural Capitalism; the Natural Step, Cradle to Cradle, Biomimicry, The Firm of the Future),
  • 3. demonstrate a critical appreciation of major discourses connecting people and nature (theocentric, anthropocentric and ecocentric) and their relevance for business today.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. learn individually and collectively how to apply sustainability design principles to organizations as well as complex sustainability issues (e.g. systems thinking; cradle-to-cradle and life principles).

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. demonstrate confidence in debating skills, and effectively communicate sustainable business concepts, individually as well as a member of a team
  • 6. communicate effectively to others how the study of nature can inform business process and system design.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Technologies21Lectures, seminars, workshops
Experiential Learning7Field visits
Guided Independent Study92Reading, research, writing

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective PresentationsIn class (10 minutes)1-3Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Design Challenge (group)3015 minutes1-5Oral feedback and grade
Assignment (individual)702,000 words1-6Written feedback and grade

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual + group assignmentIndividual assignment 3000 words1-11Six weeks after briefing

Re-assessment notes

The new assignment will have a brief which contains a different emphasis to the initial assignment.

Syllabus plan

Introduction to systems theory (main systems concepts, Gaia theory, ecosystems, thinking like a system); eco-design principles, concepts and tools (e.g. Biomimicry; Cradle to Cradle; Natural Capitalism, the Natural Step, Firm of the Future); practical design challenge; experiential learning; field excursion; nature narratives (different philosophical perspectives on connections between people and nature: e.g. theocentric, anthropocentric, ecocentric).

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:
Capra, F. (2004): The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living. New York: Anchor Books
Benyus, J. M. (1997): Biomimicry. Innovation Inspired by Nature. Quill.
Hutchins, G, (2012): The Nature of Business: Redesigning for Resilience, Totnes, UK: Green Books

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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