Biomimetics, a name coined by Otto Schmitt in the 1950s for the transfer of ideas and analogues from biology to technology, has produced some significant and successful devices and concepts in the past 50 years, but is still empirical. We show that TRIZ, the Russian system of problem solving, can be adapted to illuminate and manipulate this process of transfer. Analysis using TRIZ shows that there is only 12% similarity between biology and technology in the principles which solutions to problems illustrate, and while technology solves problems largely by manipulating usage of energy, biology uses information and structure, two factors largely ignored by technology.



  • The electronic supplementary material is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2006.0127 or via http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk.

  • In TRIZ these are called inventive principles, of which there are about 40. Appendix 1 of the electronic supplementary material lists both technical and biological examples of the principles.

  • The classical TRIZ contradiction matrix, at 39×39 elements, is much larger than the PRIZM matrix, more detailed and more difficult to use. It is available from many sources (e.g. TRIZ Journal on the Internet) and so is not provided here.

    • Received December 21, 2005.
    • Accepted March 27, 2006.
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