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Nature-inspired innovation policy: biomimicry as a pathway to leverage biodiversity for economic development

Lebdioui, Amir ORCID: 0000-0003-3564-0422 (2022) Nature-inspired innovation policy: biomimicry as a pathway to leverage biodiversity for economic development. Ecological Economics, 202. ISSN 0921-8009

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2022.107585


One of the most important challenges of the 21st century is the quest for economic development models that respect the planet's ecosystem. Rather than imposing our industrial systems on nature, why not let nature influence our industrial and innovation systems? From wind turbine blades to bullet trains and solar cells, many of the technologies we rely on today have been inspired by solutions found in nature. Although relatively widespread in the fields of architecture and engineering, biomimicry/biomimetics remains largely overlooked in economics, public policy, and development studies. This is paradoxical because the world's remaining biodiversity stock-a knowledge bank of solutions to both current and unknown challenges- is largely held in developing economies and can be leveraged as a source of inspiration for -and entry door to- industrial innovation. This paper, therefore, investigates the relevance of biomimicry in the formulation of sustainable development strategies in biodiverse developing countries and maps out the national policy landscapes that can advance it. Several findings arise from this study. First, despite the exponential growth of biomimicry as a field and our understanding of its economic impact, what drives nature-inspired innovation remains elusive. Second, the biomimicry innovation landscape is dominated by industrialised economies that have relied on proactive policy interventions, while virtually no developing country has adopted biomimicry as an innovation strategy, consolidating the exploitation of the biodiversity in the developing world by firms in high-income nations. Third, by drawing on empirical evidence from a selection of Latin American countries, this paper shows that while biomimicry presents tremendous opportunities to leapfrog towards high value-added knowledge-intensive activities by using local biodiversity and related expertise as factor endowments, policy, and institutional factors have led to the persistence of important coordination failures that hinder the expansion and commercialization of biomimicry-based R&D. This paper concludes by discussing the public policies needed to support the integration of developing nations at the innovation frontier through biomimicry.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author.
Divisions: IGA: Latin America and Caribbean Centre
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O10 - General
Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics > Q5 - Environmental Economics > Q50 - General
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 10:03
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2024 01:27

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