challenge 2

Biomimicry in Engineering Solutions. Learning from nature for Sustainable solutions that result in innovation, optimal resource use and healthy and improved living.

This is an engineering challenge that looks to nature for inspiration for solutions for sustainable engineering solutions. 


The challenge is to develop a product or system that addresses sustainable use of materials, reduces energy and water consumption and is resilient to natural disasters. This project brief is to look to nature for inspiration and propose an engineering solution that will result in increased performance on sustainability and human-well-being indicators.

The challenge is not limited to buildings but to any other type of product or technology. Nature can be the source of many innovations and inspire engineers to develop products and ideas that are innovative and sustainable and reduce energy and resources use and are consistent with the theme of World Engineering Day 2022 to Build Back Wiser – Engineering the Future.

UN Sustainable Development Goal

The Challenge addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goal 9

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

A functioning and resilient infrastructure is the foundation of every successful community. To meet future challenges, our industries and infrastructure must be upgraded. For this, we need to promote innovative sustainable technologies and ensure equal and universal access to information and financial markets. This will bring prosperity, create jobs and make sure that we build stable and prosperous societies across the globe.


Participants may nominate additional SDGs that are addressed as part of their solution.


Engineers and practitioners in related disciplines can often find inspiration in the world around us. Consider infrastructure projects around the world which are designed to reflect the environmental context in which they are located, with the end result being a solution that is embedded in and inspired by the natural environment. Think about passive-building design principles which draw inspiration from nature, such as building cooling systems that are based on cooling systems in termite mounds. These designs leave small carbon footprints, i.e. low energy demand to maintain building comfort.

Regenerative design and development principles can also be used to choose solutions, designs, materials or systems that have created a positive environmental impact.

However, when considering innovative infrastructure projects, engineers can sometimes find there are trade-offs to negotiate. For example, while communities can meaningfully benefit from celebrating our culture and history through heritage buildings, this can come into conflict with the demands of increasing energy efficiency and reducing impacts on the environment. What might an engineer do if presented with a highly-energy and water efficient building design proposal, which will knock down an existing heritage building?

Examples in Practice

  • The cochlear implant electrode which mimics the structure of the inner ear
  • Learn from nature for low energy water treatment
  • Restoration of the ocean’s reefs using methods learned from nature
  • Learning from the strength characteristics of a spiders ‘web for new high strength low weight materials
  • Innovative buildings that have drawn on nature for concept design (e.g. birds nest inspired Olympic stadium in Beijing)

To learn more about this topic

Submission Guidelines

This guideline has been designed to support the development of an engineering solution that demonstrates a considered response to one of the engineering challenges and also how one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are advanced through engineering.

Solution Considerations Overview

The success of an engineering project depends on much more than just the technical feasibility of the initial concept but also consideration of human factors, environmental context, cost and economic benefits, etc., are very important to the successful implementation of any innovative and ‘technically-sound’ idea.


Below are a series of considerations we recommend you factor into your solution to ensure it is appropriate to the context where it is to be implemented. You might ask yourself these questions a few times throughout the development process – it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right away! How can you build on your original idea, to improve it each time?


Most effective technical solution for the context


  • Is the technical solution the most appropriate and effective for this context? Take the time to show what alternatives were considered and why you are proposing this solution as the most appropriate. What was the process you went through to determine this idea was the best one? How have you demonstrated the technical feasibility of this solution?


  • How might you construct and/or implement the project? Is your solution one that considers local capacity for ongoing management, repair, and maintenance? As much as possible, does your solution or system proposal align with locally available expertise?


Environmental sustainability outcomes


  • What Sustainable Development Goal does your solution idea contribute to? How? Are there any relevant indicators that might be useful to incorporate into your submission? Have you considered the carbon footprint of your proposed product or system?


  • What impacts, both positive and negative, will your solution have on the local environment? What measures would you propose be put in place to mitigate any negative impacts?


  • Consider the long-term sustainability of your project proposal. What is the life-cycle of your project or solution? What measures could be put in place to ensure either successful continuation into the future or a successful end-of-life process?


  • Have you considered the use of locally available materials that are contextually-appropriate and environmentally-friendly wherever possible? Transportation of project materials and availability of materials which might be required for future maintenance are a significant consideration for projects in many locations. Where might your proposed materials be sourced from?


  • Have you considered the resiliency of your solution to climate change and disasters?


Engagement of key stakeholders


  • Who are the individuals, organisations, or networks who might be impacted (positively or negatively) by your idea? What might these impacts be? Now think again, is there anyone you haven’t included?


  • How would you propose a project implementing team engage and consult these stakeholders throughout the project? Think about the initial solution right through to implementation. What avenues are there for community members to become involved? What form(s) of community engagement might be required for your particular solution?


Are there any ethical considerations – such as adverse impacts to the environment, economy, social inclusion, culture, community, resource use, that warrant consideration?


  • Incorporation of cultural and social factors, specifically the integration of indigenous knowledge or practices


  • Does your solution align with and/or celebrate the cultural and social practices of people who live and work in your project context?


  • If relevant to your proposal area, what might Indigenous-led solution look like?


How has your team utilised digital tools, for example to develop models of your proposed solution as part of the solution. Also how the team has utilised ICT in the process of putting forward your submission.


Cost estimates and economic and non-economic benefits


  • What is an estimated cost of the project? Think about the ‘capital expenditure’ (initial cost to start) and ‘operational expenditure’ (ongoing costs over time), which might include materials, implementation costs, operation/program delivery costs, and maintenance costs. What trade-offs might you be making in your cost assumptions? 


  • Are there are any potential economic and non-economic benefits to community stakeholders which could result from the project?

Judges Assessment Criteria

Based on the International Engineering Alliance Global Graduate Attribute and Professional Competencies Profiles. Considering the proposal presented to you, evaluate whether the submission demonstrates the following engineering competencies.


  • Engineering Knowledge: Breadth, depth and type of knowledge, both theoretical and practical applied in developing the solution.


  • Problem Analysis: Level of thoroughness in examining the problem and developing the solution.


  • Design/ development of solutions: The extent to which the solution is original and extent to which the solution uses new and emerging technologies.


  • Investigation, research and ongoing learning: Breadth and depth of investigation, literature research and
    Experimentation applied in developing a unique and innovative solution.


  • Extent of use of digital tools and new technologies: The extent to which digital tools such as modelling, Computer Aided Design and Drawing etc. have been used to develop the solution.


  • Contribution to UN SDGs: Contribution to sustainable development and description of the UN SDGs that are addressed by the solution.


  • Consideration of broad ethical issues: The ethical issues that are addressed by the solution in terms of impact on the environment, different parts of society and economy and how the team has addressed ethical issues such as diversity and inclusion and how potential adverse impacts have been mitigated and positive impacts celebrated.


  • Individual and Collaborative Team work: Examples of how the team collaborated to successfully develop the proposed solution and description of the broad range of diversity elements (gender, age, ethnicity, physical abilities, location rural/urban) in the team.


  • Communication: Examples of how the team was resourceful in communicating with each in developing the proposal as well as the effectiveness of communicating the proposed solution.


  • Project Management and funding for the solution: Level of project management and estimated cost of solution with suggestions for financing the proposed solution.


Graduate Attributes that are addressed in the solution, referencing the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute and Professional Competency (GAPC) Framework


Maximum Score per Category 4


Score: 0 - Not Addressed

Score: 1 - Limited attempt to address

Score: 2 - Some success in addressing the various elements

Score: 3 - Good attempt to address the element

Score: 4 - Addressed very effectively




Submission Requirements

The judging process will consist of two rounds


  • Stage 1 Proposals: One short written proposal (maximum 1000 words in Word or PDF and maximum 2 images of the solution)


  • Stage 2 Proposals: Video submission for the 8-10 invited finalist teams