For years, the Biomimicry Institute and founder Janine Benyus have asked, “How can nature-inspired design solve the world’s most pressing problems?” At the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, the Biomimicry Institute and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation upped the ante by asking, “How can we accelerate the commercial viability of biomimetic solutions to our greatest challenges?”
In response, the two nonprofits jointly announced their CGI Commitment to Action, officially launching the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge (BGDC) and creating the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize™ designed to bring commercially viable solutions from the design lab to the market. The first two years of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge have been dedicated to the pursuit of biomimetic solutions to global food security challenges.
In October 2015, finalists from the 2015 Design Challenge were announced at a Biomimicry Conference held in Austin, TX and three of the teams received cash awards. Read the 2015 finalist press release and view the 2015 finalist videos.
Seven of the 2015 Design Challenge team finalists entered the accelerator phase, and returned in October 2016 at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA with commercially-viable prototypes, designed to be scalable. The first $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize was awarded to the BioNurse Team from Chile, and the second Ray of Hope Prize (2017) was awarded to Team NexLoop.
The 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge ran from October 2015 through June 2016, once again focused on solutions for global food systems. Finalists for the 2016 Design Challenge were announced in the summer of 2016, and they are now in an accelerator phase preparing to compete for the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize. Read the 2016 Challenge Finalist Press Release.
The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge aims to accelerate market-ready, scalable solutions with a unique approach. “In Year One, we seeded biomimetic design concepts with cash awards,” explained Beth Rattner, executive director of the Biomimicry Institute. “Awardees were invited to return to demonstrate prototype solutions and compete for the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize with scalable solutions that can be taken to market. At the same time, another set of design concepts were seeded through the 2016 Challenge, and the cycle began anew in the fall of 2016.”
"Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, meaning that one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with food production have been emitted in vain,” said Rattner. “Even when food is available, overall nutrition is declining due in large part to climate change and industrial farming methods."
“On the other hand, the natural world offers a library of good ideas. Seeds have provided lessons on how to grow fruit trees in arid areas, wetlands have taught us how to recycle food processing water, honeybees are informing how we store harvested food, camels are inspiring better irrigation strategies, and a deep understanding of prairies is leading to a whole new way of producing food. We believe that nature has the key to solving our world’s food security issues, we just need to unlock the solutions.”
2017 Design Challenge Shifted Focus to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Teams are now being asked to create a nature-inspired innovation (a product, service, or system) that combats climate change by either: helping communities adapt to or mitigate climate change impacts (i.e. those forecasted or already in motion), and/or reversing or slowing climate change itself (e.g. by removing excess greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere).
“Seeding and accelerating nature-inspired solutions to global challenges is the aim of this partnership,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, "and climate change is at the core. I know that my grandfather, Ray Anderson, would have been and enthusiastic supporter of this Challenge and the teams who enter it.” said Lanier. “With our support, the best ideas will be the seeds of new businesses that will carry forward Ray’s vision – that with nature as a guide, business and industry can change the world for the better.”