Biomimicry studies nature’s best ideas and imitates those ideas to solve human problems. It has the ultimate goal of creating new ways of living that are well-suited to life on earth over an extended period of time.
Lorain County Community College has teamed with Great Lakes Biomimicry (GL Bio) to house the center for biomimicry innovation development in Northeast Ohio. Partnered since 2012, this new expansion includes the opening of a technology innovation and commercialization center at LCCC’s campus in the Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems.
“[This] center is the first of its kind to integrate the discipline of biomimicry and business development resources of a community college that fosters product innovation and commercialization,”LCCC President Dr. Roy Church said during the announcement event at the SMART Center on Feb. 25.
Already a national leader in industry focusing on microsystem product development, the center currently serves as a multi-user, shared resource center for companies, entrepreneurs and workforce training and certification.
GL Bio was created in 2010 by entrepreneur and current CEO Tom Tyrell, LCCC’s Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) Innovation Fund founder Don Knechtges, and University of Akron evolutionary biologist Dr. Peter Niewiarowski. The organization is made up of an association of northeast Ohio groups and individuals focused on developing a place-based, living learning ecosystem based on biomimicry, according to their website.
As a result of the alliance with GL Bio, an estimated $1.3 billion and 1.6 million jobs is expected to be added to the nation’s economy over the next 10 years, according to a media advisory published by LCCC.
With LCCC’s devotion to promoting economic growth and resources for Lorain County businesses, it is well suited to provide a setting for biomimicry technology innovation and commercialization. By serving as the center for this new development, it will promote entrepreneurship, long-term economic growth as well as job creation by means of modernization for the county.
“We are very excited about this partnership because we believe that this approach to economic growth and development represents one of the best bets that northeast Ohio is going to be able to make on a prosperous future for years to come,” said Church. “We believe that Lorain County needs to be an integral player in that process.”
A biomimicry incubator will also be included in the center, open to entrepreneurs who are using biomimicry approaches in starting their businesses, Tyrell said. This will include free of charge resources such as use of space and business advice sponsored by a GL Bio team who will be based in the center.
“We’re going to develop the [center] into a specialized, focused water based sensor laboratory that provides that kind of capability to anybody who want[s] to apply biomimicry notions to the product development of their business,” said Church.
Besides a collaboration with LCCC, GL Bio has already partnered with the University of Akron on biomimicry with their Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center (BRIC) that provides doctoral degrees and scholarships in the field.
Avon Lake Municipal Utilities intends to sponsor a current Ph.D. fellow working in biomimetic research to determine the ways zebra mussels respond to contaminated water through the use of water sensor research. One other Ph.D. fellow from the college, presently operating at Lake Ridge Academy, will also be working within the new water sensor lab.
In addition to the accessibility of the water sensor lab to fellows of UA, LCCC faculty and students will be given the opportunity to conduct research in the area of biomimicry. This will be done with the advanced equipment from the campus’ Fab Lab as well as onsite aid from GLIDE. Three members of LCCC’s Chemistry department were a part of the lab’s development; Professor Dr. Celeste Lau, Associate Professor Dr. James Beil and Assistant Professor Dr. Regan Silvestri.
“A goal of this innovation model is to bring together institutions like the University of Akron and LCCC,” said Tyrrell. “Also, to bring in [other] institutions where we can go ahead and share ideas [and] our resources as a way to build and strive for greater excellence.”
Along with UA, GL Bio has partnered with Lorain County schools including Amherst, Elyria, Wellington and Lake Ridge Academy with the intent of fostering courses aimed towards the study of biomimicry.
Other new developments at LCCC include a new addition to the academic programs offered, including an Associate of Applied Science degree in environmental technology. With a primary focus water quality, students will be able to take courses in the field of Operator Training Center of Ohio in order to become eligible for the Ohio Certified Operator Level 1 examination. Pending on approval of the Ohio Board of Regents, the degree will be offered starting fall of 2016.