Top 10 Nature-Inspired Companies Addressing Environmental and Social Issues
Biomimicry Institute announces new cohort of bioinspired startups participating in the Ray of Hope Prize program.
From inventing higher-performing and more sustainable renewable energy systems, to reducing food waste, to solving the plastic waste problem, the 2022 Ray of Hope Prize® finalists offer inspiring solutions through their use of biomimicry (also referred to as nature-inspired or bioinspired design). Selected from hundreds of impressive submissions from companies around the world, the Biomimicry Institute is proud to announce the top 10 finalists selected to participate in this transformational program designed to help startups cross a critical threshold in scaling their sustainable solutions. The 10-week virtual accelerator program culminates in the chance to receive the $100,000 grand prize and additional equity-free funding.
“Every year we see more and more breakthrough, nature-inspired companies apply to the Ray of Hope Prize®, indicating that this field is growing to meet the climate and biodiversity challenges facing our planet,” said Jared Yarnell-Schane, Innovation Director at the Institute. “Among them are companies that are creating brand new chemicals and materials that are in tune with those that already exist in nature, and companies that are creating products to make critical infrastructure more efficient and sustainable.”
The 10 participating companies include:
Amphibio United Kingdom
Amphibio has developed a recyclable and PFC-free alternative to traditional waterproof breathable textiles in the outdoor and sportswear industry. This is accomplished via their unique manufacturing process and PFC-free superhydrophobic yarn, which was inspired by water and liquid repellent nano-structures found in nature. Their textiles are made from one source material and do not need any chemical treatments, mitigating two of the biggest barriers of sustainable textile production today.
Biome Renewables Canada
Biome Renewables is an engineering and design firm that learns from nature to create higher performing and more sustainable renewable energy systems. Their first product, the PowerCone®, is a wind turbine retrofit inspired by the aerodynamics of a falling maple seed, which moves through the air with a pattern of least resistance. The PowerCone, which is a second smaller rotor bolted to the hub of existing wind turbines, can increase the annual energy production of a wind turbine, while minimizing the amount of loads and vibrations experienced by the turbine. Currently, they are bringing their second technology to market: a serrations technology that mimics an owl’s wing to deliver quieter wind turbine performance. Recent wind tunnel testing in Germany revealed noise reductions up to 4 dB.
Fusion Bionic GmbH Germany
Fusion Bionic creates laser-generated surface textures inspired by textures found in nature, opening up new possibilities for functionalized surfaces. Their Direct Laser Interference Patterning (DLIP) can create micro- and nano-scale surface textures on which, for example, ice does not stick, (anti-icing for e.g. aviation), glass surfaces of smartphones do not reflect (anti-reflective), and implants are better accepted by the body (biocompatible, antibacterial). All of these surface textures replace ecologically harmful processes, such as chemical de-icing, sand-blasting, or etching, while meeting the demand of increased product performance via industrial-scale surface finishing.
GreenPod Labs India
India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, but ~40% of fresh produce is lost before it reaches consumers. GreenPod Labs have created bio-inspired packaging sachets that release plant based volatiles to activate the built-in defense mechanism within specific fruits or vegetables, in order to slow down the ripening rate and minimize microbial growth. By understanding crop physiology and spoilage types, GreenPod Labs is able to create the right formulation for produce to fight against biotic and abiotic stresses at ambient temperature, lessening the need for cold storage and cold supply chains.
Intropic Materials United States
Intropic Materials is solving plastic waste from the inside out by embedding enzymes directly inside plastics to aid and significantly speed up natural degradation. These plastics rapidly and completely break-down at the end of use into biodegradable or chemically recyclable small molecules without producing microplastics, in accessible life-friendly conditions like warm water baths or compost. This is enabled by their proprietary enzyme stabilization platform, designed to function similarly to chaperone proteins, which protect and preserve enzymatic structure and function in foreign environments. By bringing together natural and synthetic materials, Intropic Materials is unlocking a more innovative and sustainable future.
Metavoxel United States
Low-density, high-performance cellular materials like bone, bamboo, and marine sponges are nature’s way of doing more with less, providing structural efficiency and multifunctionality across scale. The key is in the specific internal cellular geometry. Metavoxel recreates these cellular geometries to produce lightweight and strong metamaterials which can improve structural efficiency and reduce the cost and environmental footprint of the built environment. The goal for Metavoxel is to do more with less — to conserve energy and material resources while accomplishing specific mechanical and structural objectives.
Mycocycle United States
Mycocycle works with nature’s master decomposers, fungi, to break down complex waste streams such as construction materials and asphalt. Using a systems-level biomimicry approach, Mycocycle’s process enables a circular industrial supply chain, becoming ever more important as landfills reach capacity. To accomplish this, Mycocycle first optimizes fungi in a lab to decompose specific waste streams. Then, they remediate the waste on site in collaboration with manufacturers, recyclers, and waste management companies. The resulting by-product can then be used to create new products.
Sóliome United States
Sunscreen has become a part of the daily routine for millions of consumers, however the current market choices often contain toxic chemicals or are damaging to sensitive organisms like coral. Sóliome has created a novel sunscreen inspired by compounds that naturally concentrate in the lens of the human eye to absorb UVA and UVB radiation. By isolating and stabilizing this molecule, Sóliome is able to create a safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly sunscreen.
Strong by Form Chile
In nature, trees are able to withstand high wind and snow stresses by growing the right form, density, and fiber orientations. This allows natural wood to achieve a specific strength that is even higher than the one of steel. By combining material science with the latest digital optimization tools, Strong by Form has developed Woodflow, a fabrication technology that follows these natural form functions. Their proprietary additive manufacturing process can create high performance, ultralight, timber-based structural composites for the construction and mobility industries at a fraction of their environmental impact.
Sudoc United States
Sudoc creates chemical cleaning products that emulate how enzymes work in the human liver to efficiently oxidize harmful and toxic micropollutants. By closely mimicking the mechanism of these peroxidase liver enzymes, Sudoc’s innovative chemistry platform can reduce, replace, and eliminate toxic chemicals in a wide range of applications. The company’s first product outperforms traditional mold stain removal products with 1/30th the chemical content, and they are developing a range of other household and commercial cleaning products, as well as solutions for the treatment of waste water and waste pharmaceuticals. By creating chemistry in balance with nature, Sudoc is helping to address a massive increase in global chemical toxicity that is contributing to the greater incidence of infertility, diseases such as cancer, and impacted developmental behaviors.
The Ray of Hope Prize participants will now begin the 10-week virtual program and will be delivering their pitches to an expert judging panel in November. During this program, the Institute will help these startups scale more quickly in order to compete in multi-billion dollar, extractive industries; avoid the common push to produce products cheaply, leading to further (unintentional) harm (such as the use of toxic chemicals); and help them to easily communicate their science and biomimicry. The program concludes with an immersive retreat in the California Redwoods for participants to reconnect with the natural world and form bonds with their fellow bioinspired innovators.
“The 10 companies selected to participate in this year’s Ray of Hope Prize give me hope for a more vibrant, sustainable, biodiverse world,” said Yarnall-Shane. “I look forward to supporting these brilliant entrepreneurs and scientists!”
Previous Ray of Hope Prize finalists include breakthrough innovators such as Spintex Engineering, ECOncrete, Biohm, Werewool, Spotless Materials, Impossible Materials, and Nucleário. These companies have gone on to raise millions more in seed funding and have made inspiring impacts to the industries they’ve designed solutions for. For more information about the Ray of Hope Prize and how to support the Institute’s nature-inspired design innovation initiative, visit Biomimicry.org/rayofhopeprize.