Holland Award for Biomimicry.

IRI 2017 Member Summit: 2017 Holland Award Winner from the University of Akron on her paper on Biomimicry.

October 4th I attended the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) Members Summit in Forthworth Texas. The IRI is an organization of nearly 150 individual and service companies who have a common interest in the effective management of technological innovation.

This years summit was super exciting as the IRI created a specific Bio Inspired Design (BID) Track. As BID and Biomimicry are continuously gaining popularity among R&D leaders this was an amazing opportunity to present about the field to such an industry focused audience. Speakers on the day included Emily Kennedy, a recent graduate from the Biomimicry fellowship program at the University of Akron and now acting Director of External Relations for the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center at the University; Thomas Marting, Facilities and Resources Management Director at GOJO Industries, Emily’s prior fellowship sponsor company; along with professors Michael Helms and Marc Weissburg from the Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Institute of Technology. Among these experts was myself and my sponsor, Dan Dietz from the JM Smucker Company who were asked to contribute on our experience as we come to the end of the first year of my five year fellowship program. Nerve racking to say the least but a great opportunity for both myself and Dan to speak about the program and we very much appreciated being asked to contribute.

The talk itself lasted just over an hour and sparked some very interesting dialogue among the crowd. It was this 1 hour experience that opened my eyes to the world of industry and their perspective of the bio inspired design process. Although all who attended were intrigued and interested the level of prior knowledge of the field baffled me. Being surrounded by such an amazing cohort of people at the University of Akron doing such exciting work in the field and having an amazing supportive sponsor like JM Smucker I had become somewhat oblivious of the novelty of this field to others, especially those in industry. Thus, I began to question my research focus, which thankfully being in my first year I’m still able to do. I began to question why this field is still such a novelty to others especially those in industry? Is it simple a lack of awareness of the field or do they know of it but have no idea how to adopt or implement such a process into their company? It is clear from numerous case studies, research papers and news articles biomimicry and BID are among the newest cutting edge technology in regards to innovative design thus why are more companies not adopting this process? These are the type of questions I hope to answer and potentially solve over the next few years of my PhD.

With that said this unawareness of Biomimicry and BID was counterbalanced about 3 hours later when Emily Kennedy and Thomas Marting were awarded as this years winners of the IRI Maurice Holland Award for their article, “Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front-End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products,” published in Research-Technology Management (RTM)’s July-August 2016 issue.

AwardEmily Kennedy and Thomas Marting being presented with their IRI Maurice Holland Award for their article, “Biomimicry: Streamlining the Front-End of Innovation for Environmentally Sustainable Products”.

The RTM is IRI’s bi-monthly journal focused on the practice of innovation. Since 1958, RTM has published peer-reviewed articles that map the cutting edge in R&D management, illustrate how management theory can be applied to real situations, and give leaders of research, development, and engineering the tools to promote innovation throughout their organizations. The Maurice Holland Aware is awarded to papers published the previous year according to the criteria of significance to the field of R&D, technology, and innovation management; originality of new management concepts; and excellence in clarity of presentation. This year’s winning article provides industry with qualitative and quantitative data of the advantages of applying Biomimicry at the solution discovery stage and encourages R&D leaders to investigate this low-risk, high return approach for driving innovation and sustainability.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and I am excited to hopefully get the opportunity to present at this summit again as I begin to answer some of these questions.

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