New York State Bioinspired Innovation Program

Project Profiles

New York State Bioinspired Innovation Program

Learn more about our bioinspired innovation work and services by emailing us at [email protected] and reading our report, Tapping into Nature. Follow the conversation on twitter: @TerrapinBG | @NY_biomimicry | #TapNature.

Starting in 2010, Terrapin Bright Green directed the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) bioinspired innovation program. This effort led to the development of a bioinspired innovation consultancy within Terrapin focused on solving engineering and design challenges. As part of this effort, Terrapin broadly disseminated knowledge of the economic, energy, and environmental benefits of bioinspired innovation through 25 presentations to corporate clients and at more than 50 public events at venues such as SXSW Eco, Brookhaven National Lab, and the Biomimicry Europe Innovation & Finance Summit. As a result of these engagements, Terrapin assisted 20 research and development teams in developing new or improved products and manufacturing processes.

Termite fungus comb

Terrapin worked with researchers to develop low-energy building dehumidification strategies inspired how termites passively regulate humidity in their mounds. Image courtesy of Scott Turner.

During this program, Terrapin guided 15 teams through the process of obtaining state, federal, and private funding, totaling $3 million directed toward developing bioinspired technology to benefit the energy, environmental, and economic landscape of New York State (NYS). The projects — which included teams from Cornell University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, among several other institutions — addressed challenges in areas including energy storage, building technologies, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, heat dissipation, and material synthesis. The potential energy savings of these 15 projects are conservatively estimated to be in the range of hundreds of millions of kilowatt-hours per year for New York State. By integrating bioinspired innovation into these projects, Terrapin fulfilled NYSERDA’s goal of improving the quality of research and development projects proposed to and funded by the energy agency.

The potential energy savings of these 15 projects are projected to be in the range of hundreds of millions of kilowatt-hours per year for New York State.”

The team created an extensive network of researchers, industry contacts, and institutions developing bioinspired technology; Terrapin continues to use this network to address clients’ unique technology development and innovation needs.

As part of the educational facet of this program, Terrapin developed, wrote, and published the report Tapping into Nature: The Future of Energy, Innovation, and Business as a resource for funding agencies, decision makers at technology companies, and teams at startups and academic labs to understand the opportunities of bioinspired innovation. This report established Terrapin as a thought leader in the bioinspired technology development space.

Chunlei superwicking_hue

Terrapin assisted a team of researchers developing superwicking surfaces inspired by leaf microstructures. Image courtesy of Chunlei Guo.

Bioinspired innovation — sometimes termed biomimicry — often generates multiple benefits for companies; though a company or researcher may begin by examining a bioinspired solution to an energy challenge, additional benefits such as waste reduction or reduced toxicity often result. It is a process that is generating excitement and interest from a wide range of researchers, companies, and government agencies. By participating in the program, NYS organizations had the opportunity to become early adopters, building the state’s reputation as a center of bioinspired innovation. The prevalence of companies using  bioinspired innovation is expanding in NYS and beyond due in large part to Terrapin’s work supported by NYSERDA.


*Header and Feature images courtesy of Harbec and Ceralink.

Cas is a biological engineer with a passion for technology based in and inspired by biology. He served as the project manager for Terrapin's technology development services. Cas believes that using biotechnology will lead to a more bountiful and prosperous world for all living things.