Biomimicry and Business: Learning from Nature

Module description

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 sustainable business challenges in a  transition to a sustainable economy.  The module will explore how nature is inspiring innovations that increase energy and resource productivity; eliminates the concept of waste; catalyses the shift from product to service- oriented economies; build natural and social capital, and enhances business resilience. The module will explore selected ecological design frameworks informed by nature such as those from Biomimicry 3.8, Cradle to Cradle, the Natural Step, and the nature-inspired Firm of the Future in a shift towards economies that operate in harmony with nature. It will also cover systems thinking, Gaia theory, ecoliteracy principles, and provide an opportunity to think more philosophically about the natural world and our place within it. The module will include experiential learning, a short period off campus that will involve working on a business design challenge, discussion, and debate that will give participants a direct experience of the interconnectedness and interdependence of natural and human systems.

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 those working on biologically inspired innovations.

Ethics and Corporate Responsibility: the module will look at diverse ethical perspectives resulting from three philosophical world views: anthroprocentric, ecocentric, and theocentric.

Research in Teaching: the module will draw research articles in the first instance; use the module leader’s research expertise in the areas of discussion; and engage you in independent research to produce a Client’s Report.

Full module specification

Module title:Biomimicry and Business: Learning from Nature
Module code:MBAM930
Module level:M
Academic year:2015/6
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Sally Jeanrenaud - Convenor
  • Jean-paul Jeanrenaud - Lecturer
Module credit:10
ECTS value:






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

4 days (+ study over 6 weeks)

Module aims

The objectives of this module are to explore how business can learn 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. understand key biomimicry concepts and their relevance to business at product, process, organization and systems levels, in the transition to a sustainable economy.
  • 2. apply and evaluate biomimetic design strategies and principles in the context of a sustainable business or organizational challenge.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. understand and compare the principles of diverse sustainability design frameworks inspired by nature.
  • 4. critically explore major discourses connecting people and nature (theocentric, anthropocentric and ecocentric) and their relevance for business today.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. demonstrate the ability to engage with nature through careful observation and reflection.
  • 6. demonstrate effective skills in independent study and group work.
  • 7. effectively communicate, orally and written, the relevance of biomimetic design to sustainable business and economy.

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 & Teaching activities21Lectures, seminars, workshops
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities7Experiential learning field visits
Guided independent study72Reading, 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
Assignment (individual)702000 words1 - 7Written feedback
Design Challenge (Group) (5/6 group members)3015 minutes1 - 5Oral feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual + group assignment Individual assignment 3000 words1 - 76 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 selected eco-design concepts (e.g. Biomimicry; Cradle to Cradle;  Natural Capitalism, the Natural Step, Firm of the Future; Local Living Economies).

Systems theory (main systems concepts, Gaia theory).

Swarm intelligence

A biophilia practices and experiential learning; field excursion and practical design challenge

Nature narratives (different philosophical perspectives on connections between people and nature: e.g. theocentric, anthropocentric, ecocentric).

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Benyus, J. M. (1997): Biomimicry. Innovation Inspired by Nature. Quill.

Capra, F.; Luisi, P.L. (2014): The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. UK: Cambridge University Press

Hutchins, G (2012): The Nature of Business: Redesigning for Resilience. Totnes, UK: Green Books

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