Sticky Geckos Get Investment

A Tokay Gecko (Source: The Guardian)

Peter Schott // pcs2144

(1) Sustainability Problem: Waste

*please note – old article – but biomimicry represents sustainable solutions in the technology space*

In the past, Ford has blended wheat straw into its plastic hardware, in an effort to reduce their petroleum use, and plastic bottles have been used to create fibers that tie together the covers of their car seats. Per the Fermanian Business & Economic Institue, “bio inspiration” efforts have increased 15% between 2000 and 2012.

(2) Biomimicry of Tokay geckos (and their toes!!) represent a potential to increase recycling rates for Ford vehicles by 10%.

  • By 2030, FBEI estimates that biomimicry will represent $425B of the US GDP (up $1.6T globally)
  • By mimicking the stickiness of gecko toes, Ford is able to extract more materials at end of life (separate the materials), by adding an adhesive layer between the foam, plastics and other materials in its car parts
  • Other examples of biomimicry include replicating sea sponge properties for fiber optics and replicating the nose of a Kingfisher bird to make the 200-mph Shinkansen Bullrt Train more aerodynamic
  • By integrating biological science into design and manufacturing/production/the broader value chain, companies are able to engage with scientists to develop long term solutions that mimic natural phenomenons

Source: Ford looks to geckos to boost recyclability of its cars, The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/nov/12/ford-motor-company-recycling-biomimicry-proctor-gamble-nih-nsf

(3) Stakeholders

Stakeholders are across public and private, all of which benefit from biomimicry – in this example, Ford has partnered with Proctor & Gamble and the Biomimicry Institute to explore nature-inspired solutions. Specific to this example, entities across the value chain, including waste management plants and manufacturing companies, will benefit from the Gecko adhesive as they are able to extract more materials (as it is easier to recover/separate the different components of Ford parts); this makes their products worth more at their end of life.

(4) Design/Implementation

The following are possible first steps:

  1. Patent said technology (Gecko adhesive); or create a universal spec to share, to increase the efficiency of the market
  2. Run a pilot to confirm and verify that the 10% increase in recycling rates applies to all Ford models/parts (beyond just plastics and foams) as well as where else the solution might be used; continue to use said product and it’s specifications and share data to encourage and influence policy that supports biomimicry research/solutions (through PPP)
  3. Use the patent and pilot program to engage peers, the market and institutes to partner and raise capital to invest in further biomimicry R&D, as resources are needed to further study and development of biomimicry. Specific to Ford, this could be research on how biomimicry may influence materials used, how mechanical components function, how the color of the paint or an element of the car improves functionality or the wellness of the user, etc.

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