Navigating the tower of babel: The epistemological shift of bioinspired innovation

Taryn Mead, David Coley, D. Scott Borden

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


The disparity between disciplinary approaches to bioinspired innovation has created a cultural divide that is stifling to the overall advancement of the approach for sustainable societies. This paper aims to advance the effectiveness of bioinspired innovation processes for positive benefits through interdisciplinary communication by exploring the epistemological assumptions in various fields that contribute to the discipline. We propose that there is a shift in epistemological assumptions within bioinspired innovation processes at the points where biological models derived from reductionist approaches are interpreted as socially-constructed design principles, which are then realized in practical settings wrought with complexity and multiplicity. This epistemological shift from one position to another frequently leaves practitioners with erroneous assumptions due to a naturalistic fallacy. Drawing on examples in biology, we provide three recommendations to improve the clarity of the dialogue amongst interdisciplinary teams. (1) The deliberate articulation of epistemological perspectives amongst team members. (2) The application of a gradient orientation towards sustainability instead of a dichotomous orientation. (3) Ongoing dialogue and further research to develop novel epistemological approaches towards the topic. Adopting these recommendations could further advance the effectiveness of bioinspired innovation processes to positively impact social and ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Bioinspired design
  • Bioinspired innovation
  • Biomimetics
  • Biomimicry
  • Epistemology
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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