Introducing The Da Vinci Index: Biomimicry and Economics

During an event at the San Diego Zoo Biomimicry, Dr. Lynn Reaser of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University provided a unique look at The Da Vinci Index, the first economic index measuring activity in biomimcry and/or bio-inspired research and commercial application.

Leonardo Da Vinci is also known to have gathered inspiration of his works from nature, hence the connection to the biomimcry movement.

Dr. Reaser suggested that the old model of altruism, subsidies, and regulation in terms of the protecting the environment falters during economic hard times.

A new model, called E2, focuses on helping both the economy and the environment with higher efficiency, lower costs, and optimizing not maximizing.  This is where biomimcry comes in, as nature has been and can be the inspiration for cost effective efficiency and optimization. But how?

There are two approaches utilizing biomimcry.  On the one hand, a person may see an interesting concept in nature, in turn finding a commercial application.  On the other hand, another person may seek a solution to a given problem, thus finding the answer in the natural world.  But this second activity has yet to measured, until now.

The Da Vinci Index seeks to measure biomimcry activity.  The following weighted components make up the index, and data is drawn from both academia and the real world:

  • Number of Scholarly Articles
  • Number of Patents
  • Number of Grants
  • Dollar Value of Grants

Since there are many synonyms to the idea of biomicry, certain keywords are acknowledged, biomimcry, biomimetic, biomimic, biomimics and bioinspired.

The year 2000 was used as a baseline with an index score of 100.  The Da Vinci Index in the year 2010 yielded 713.  This is a suggested seven-fold rise in biomimicry in just ten years.

With this data, what is the actual purpose of the index?  It’s multifold.  First off and most apparent, it is meant to measure activity of biomimcry.  It’s akin to other indexes, like the Case Shiller Home Price Index, the Consumer Price Index, or the Standard & Poors 500, but related to biomimicry.  One is able to see the acceleration or deceleration of biomimicry related activities.

But more-so, the index is also meant to build awareness of biomimicry itself.  Although the actions of learning and being inspired by nature have been utilized even before Da Vinci himself, such activities have rarely been aggregated.  The awareness of biomimic activity may create a snowball effect, inspiring even more biomimicry.

Perhaps the old adage, what gets measured, gets managed, can be applied to The Da Vinci Index.

Let’s take a moment to play devil’s advocate to the index.  An audience member at the event asked the question, “Is it measuring the mainstreaming of the word, or the action of bio-inspired design?”  From this point of view, The Da Vinci Index may not be measuring biomimicry itself, but more so, just the ever increasing popularity of the word.

The Da Vinci Index is expected to be available for free for its first year of publication via the San Diego Zoo Biomimicry as well as the Fermanian Business and Economics Institute websites.  After the first year, it will be re-evaluated, perhaps including a subscription model.

So, what do you think?  Will The Da Vinci Index be able to accurately measure biomimcry in research and commercial applications?  Or does it only measure the word and not the actions itself?

Image Credit: Wikipedia 

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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