Challenge Details

Challenge Details

Getting Started

Anyone has the ability to participate in this challenge, whether you’ve been trained in biomimicry or not. All it takes is a willingness to make a difference when it comes to climate change and some patience. Here are six steps to take to submit successfully to the Challenge:

  1. SIGN UP 
    Sign up on the Challenge website, or log in if you already have an account.
    • Recruit friends and fellow difference-makers to join your team (up to eight team members total).
    • While logged in to the Challenge website, create a team using the Team Form accessible from the Teams tab. Tell us a little bit about your team and its skills. The Team Overview information will be publicly available on our website, but your private information will not.
    • If you are open to accepting other team members based on people who view your profile, or you need team members with additional skills, select "Yes" in the Looking for Team Members section. If you only want to include team members you already know or recruit directly, select "No."
    Once you’ve formed a team, read through the Challenge brief and the Rules & FAQs, including the submission requirements.
    Use our resources, including the Biomimicry Toolbox, to determine a specific climate change-related challenge to work on and to work through the various steps in the Biomimicry Design Spiral.
    Begin putting together your submission according to the submission requirements.
    When you’re ready to submit, log in and pay the Challenge entry fee. Complete the submission form and upload all of the required documents. Note: only the team leader can complete the submission process.

That’s it! We’ll be here to help along the way and answer any questions you have. Happy designing!

Design brief

"Adapt to that which you can't prevent, prevent that to which you can't adapt." -BILL MCKIBBEN

Earth has always been a changing planet, but the climate and ecological changes humans have set in motion in the last century are like nothing our species has experienced before. Hungry for energy, food, and other resources, our growing populations are pushing Earth’s systems toward a frightening and well-documented tipping point. The science is clear, and so is our imperative. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, the human community must find ways to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change—and ideally reverse it’s dangerous course altogether.

Our challenge is this: Create a nature-inspired innovation (a product, service, or system) that combats climate change by either:

  • Helping communities adapt to or mitigate climate change impacts (i.e. those forecasted or already in motion), and/or
  • Reversing or slowing climate change itself (e.g. by removing excess greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere).

Why nature-inspired?

Nature is the best model we have for a sustainable, regenerative way of life. In order for humans to persist and thrive on a healthy planet, our systems must work in concert with nature’s systems. Biomimicry provides a pathway to the solutions we need to accomplish this. Consider how plants effortlessly turn CO2 into energy and materials every hour that the sun shines. What if we learned to do the same? What if CO2 were not the poison of our era, but instead the feedstock of a global carbon-sequestering economy? Nature offers incredible inspiration and time-tested strategies that can be emulated and applied to climate change issues in realms as diverse as energy, water, transportation, buildings and infrastructure, food systems, health, behavior change, and more. Visit our Climate Change collection on AskNature to learn more.

What are we looking for?

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge calls for design concepts addressing any aspect of climate change adaptation, mitigation, and reversal in any sector of the economy. We know that climate change is a complex problem; a hairy knot made up of hundreds, or even thousands, of other problems all woven together. But this diversity means there are also just as many solutions out there waiting to be discovered. Successful teams will define a concrete, well researched area of focus for their design efforts and apply the core concepts and methods of biomimicry in developing a solution. We are especially interested in projects that go beyond familiar approaches to the climate problem by identifying unique leverage points for change, removing barriers to the adoption and spread of existing solutions, and/or clearly demonstrating how biomimicry can lead to new, novel, or more effective solutions.

What are we NOT looking for?

  • Biomimicry after the fact: If you already have a design solution, please do not retroactively argue that it is biomimetic or “like nature” just to apply to this challenge. Often it is quite obvious to our judges when this is the case. If you are working with an existing design, we’d rather see how you applied biomimicry to improve it. How can learning from nature lead you to a stronger, more sustainable outcome?
  • Common characters:  As news stories and information about biomimicry has spread, many case studies and biological strategies have become common (e.g. the water capturing abilities of the Namib Desert beetle). While this is great for public awareness, creativity and innovation are limited when designers don’t look beyond the common cast of characters. For this reason, designs that rely on biological strategies, design concepts, or biomimetic technologies that have already been well documented should offer significant comparative advantages or greater depth of emulation.

Rules and FAQs

Essential Info and Deadlines

  • The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is a team competition. You must be part of a team of 2-8 individuals in order to enter. Learn about team formation below.
  • Eligibility: University students and independent professionals are eligible to enter. Judging and prizes are category-specific. Note: We are creating a brand-new Youth Challenge for middle and high school students, which is currently being pilot-tested. To learn more about the Youth Challenge or to sign up to be notified when it launches, please click here
  • Submission fees:
    • Early bird rate (pay by 31 March 2018): Student-only teams $40; professionals or mixed teams of students and professionals  $100
    • Standard rate: Student-only teams $50; professionals or mixed teams of students and professionals $120
  • Submission deadline: DEADLINE EXTENDED to 8 May 2018 at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (GMT-7)


Registering on this website (“the challenge platform") is the first step in joining the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge in any role (participant, team leader, mentor, etc). You must be registered in order to form a team, submit a mentor application, or access community tools, such as the team directory and mentor directory. When you register, you will create a challenge platform profile that other users and mentors can view. Begin the registration process here.

Team Formation

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is a team competition. In order to submit an entry, you must be part of a team with 2-8 members. Once you have registered as an individual, you may create a new team profile on the site or join an existing team. Creating a team profile allows you to share your information in the team directory with other registered users, add or recruit new members, and connect with mentors and advisors in our community. When you create your team profile, you will have the opportunity to indicate whether or not you are looking for new team members. You may edit your team page and team membership at any time prior to submission. Once you've registered and logged in to the site, form your team here.

If you don't want to form your own team, you can browse the team directory for existing teams that are looking to add members. Once you have found a team that interests you, send a message to the team leader by clicking the "Contact Team Leader" button on the team's profile page.

Teams are active on the challenge platform for the duration of one challenge only and must be formed anew for subsequent challenges.

For information about using the team functions on the challenge platform, please refer to the FAQ section Using the Platform, below.

Is there a fee to register?

No, there is no fee to register on the challenge website. However, if you decide to submit an entry to the challenge and compete for any of the awards, you must pay a submission fee. (See Submissions and Fees, below)

Do I have to register to begin working on the challenge?

You do not have to register to begin working on the challenge. However, by registering for the challenge, you will have the opportunity to connect with others in our design challenge community, including mentors and potential teammates. Ultimately, you will have to register for the challenge in order to submit a design and compete for awards.

What is the required team size?

Teams that choose to submit a design must include two to eight team members.

Can I register for the challenge as an individual?

Yes, you can register for the challenge and access our resources as an individual. However, in order to submit, you will have to either lead a team and add/recruit teammates or become a member of an existing team.

Can I submit to the challenge as an individual?

No, you may not submit to the challenge as an individual. 

Can I participate on more than one team?

No, you can only participate on one team for the challenge, regardless of category.

How does our team add new members to our team profile?

Please refer to the FAQ section on Using the Platform, below.

The team profile I created for the last challenge is gone from the Team Directory. What happened?

Teams are archived after each challenge. You must form a new team on the platform for each challenge.

Basic Participant Eligibility

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is open to teams of independent professionals and college and university students anywhere in the world. Entries from individuals will not be considered. Any team with a parent organization or entity that has generated more than $1 million in revenue during the past calendar year is not eligible to participate. Individuals who are associated with or employed by such entities are eligible to participate, provided the parent entity or its subsidiaries will not have ownership over any intellectual property being developed by the team.

We are creating a brand-new Youth Challenge for middle and high school students, which is currently being pilot-tested. To learn more about the Youth Challenge or to sign up to be notified when it launches, please click here

Design Concept Eligibility

All entries must involve a technology, product, service, or process that addresses a challenge related to the current theme. The entry must show a clear connection between a biological mechanism, process, pattern, or system, and the technological solution submitted; i.e., the solution must emulate a natural model(s). Entries must describe an entirely new solution and represent a given team's unique work and intellectual property. If your project has already generated commercial revenues exceeding $100,000, it is not eligible for entry.


We are looking for entrepreneurial teams that have an interest in taking their ideas beyond the concept phase, with our support, as well as for teams of university students who want to participate in the Challenge as a learning opportunity. Finalists are eligible to join the Biomimicry Launchpad and compete for the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize®. More prize details are listed here.

Student Details

College and university students under the age of 35, including associate degree students, undergraduates, MBAs, MD candidates, JD candidates, other masters degree candidates, and PhD candidates, are eligible to pay at the student-rate. Students must be enrolled at the time of submission or have graduated within 6 months of the submission deadline.

I am a student, but I am working on a team with my professor or other professionals. Can my team claim student status and pay the student rate?

No. Any team consisting of a combination of students and professionals must pay the professional rate. However, faculty and mentors can work with student teams in advisory roles without jeopardizing a student team's submission fee.

Submission Method

Submissions are accepted electronically via the Challenge platform only. We do not accept submissions by post mail or any other method.

Submission Form

All entries must be submitted via the online entry form. In order to gain access to the submission form, a team must be created. Once a team is created on the Challenge platform, and if the submission period is open, the team leader can access the submission form via his/her team profile, from the Challenge page, or under his/her “My Activities" menu. (My Activities is accessed by clicking on the user icon at the top of the site after logging in). Note: Only the team leader can begin the submission process.

Fees and Payment Method

Entry fees are due at the beginning of the submission process. The team leader will be prompted to pay the fee when s/he begins a submission draft. Payment is accepted by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or via PayPal. An early bird discount is offered to teams that initiate the submission process and pay the fee in advance. Regardless of when you pay, your team will have until the submission deadline to finalize your entry and formally submit it.

  • Early bird rate (pay by 31 March 2018): Student-only teams $40; professionals or mixed teams of students and professionals  $100
  • Standard rate: Student-only teams $50; professionals or mixed teams of students and professionals $120

Submission Requirements

Here are detailed submission requirements and judging criteria. Incomplete submissions will not be considered. We strongly recommend that you review the judging criteria carefully before submitting your entry.

Will late entries be considered?

The submission platform will not accept late entries. We recommend submitting your materials at least a day in advance of the deadline in order to avoid last minute issues with bandwidth or other technical glitches.

Can a team submit more than one entry?

No, teams may submit only one entry per team.

Mentor Directory

While working with a mentor or advisor is not required, we strongly encourage that teams do so and offer a mentor directory as a resource to help with matchmaking. The mentor directory contains information about mentors who have made themselves available to advise teams participating in the Challenge. The directory is only visible to those who are logged in to the challenge platform.

What do mentors do?

Mentors support teams in many ways, including answering general questions about biomimicry, supporting teams' design processes, answering biological and technical questions, and providing business planning advice.

What is the time commitment to be a mentor? 

The time commitment is flexible. Mentors can indicate in their profile how many teams they are willing to assist and in what ways.

I am interested in sharing my expertise. How do I become a mentor?

Once you register on the Challenge site, fill out an application and complete your mentor profile. The application form can be accessed from the Mentors page. Once your application is approved, your profile will then appear in the mentor directory, where teams can reach out to you for help.

How can I update my profile in the Mentor Directory?

Log into the platform and click on your user icon in the upper right corner of the website. Select “My Activities" and scroll down to “My Mentor Profile". Click the edit button under “Actions" and you will be taken to a page on which you can edit your profile information.

If I serve in an advisory role (as faculty or mentor, e.g.), can I advise more than one team?


Is my team required to have a mentor or advisor?

No, but we highly recommend it.

How can my team contact mentors in the Directory ?

From the mentor's profile, click the "Request an Introduction" button and fill out the message box. Your message will be forwarded to the mentor for consideration. If they are interested and able to work with your team, they will contact you directly.

When is my personal profile visible and who can see it?

Your personal profile is accessible from your team profile and can be viewed only by other registered users on the platform. If you send a contact request to a team you are interested in joining, your profile will also be visible to that team's leader and administrator.

How do I update my personal profile?

After logging in, click on your user icon in the upper right corner of the website. Select “My Profile" and you will be taken to a page where you can edit your profile information.

How do I make changes to my team profile?

Only the team leader and members designated as "admins" may edit the team profile. After logging in, visit your team's profile in the team directory. Select the "edit" button. Team leaders can also manage their team from the “My Activities" menu, which is accessed from the user icon at the top right corner of the website.

How does our team add new members to our team profile?

Once a team has been created, the team leader can begin adding team members. After logging in, visit your team's profile in the directory. Click the "Invite Members" button. If the team member you wish to add has already registered on the platform, find and invite them by typing their name in the search bar that appears. Or, if your teammate is not yet registered, enter their email address to send an invitation with information about how to register and join your team. Invited members must confirm they accept the invitation before they will appear in the team profile.

What is the difference between the team leader, admin, and member roles?

The platform allows teams to share responsibility for managing their team profile. The person who creates the team profile automatically becomes the team leader, and is the only team member who can manage member roles, start the submission process, pay the fee, and formally submit the entry. Once the team is created, the team leader can begin adding members. There are two options for team member roles: admin and member. Admins can edit the team profile, add new team members, and view the submission draft. Members can only view the draft.

How do I connect with mentors?

Browse the mentor directory to learn about mentors who may be available to advise you on your project. If you identify someone you would like to contact, you can request an introduction using the button on the mentors profile. Fill out the form with your message describing your interest in the mentor, where your team is in the design process, and what help you are looking for (e.g. understanding biology, business planning, etc.) These messages are received by Institute staff, who will forward your request to the mentor. If the mentor is able to work with you, they will contact you directly.

How do I access the submission form?

Once a team is created on the Challenge platform, and if the submission period is open, the team leader can access the form via his/her team profile or the “My Activities" menu, which is accessed by clicking on the user icon at the top of the site after logging in. Payment of the submission fee is required in order to access the submission form.

Can I change my email settings?

As a registered user on the challenge platform you will automatically receive certain updates via email. You cannot unsubscribe from these messages without deleting your account.

How do change my password or delete my account?

After logging in, click on your user icon in the upper right corner of the website. Select “Account Settings" and complete the forms.

Will my team's intellectual property be protected?

Entrants retain ownership of all ideas and materials/images submitted to the challenge and only the BGDC program staff and the judging panelists will have access to complete entry materials. However, the Biomimicry Institute retains the right to reproduce and distribute materials submitted for public view (e.g. images, overview text, and video). With your permission, we may also share all or portions of your presentation PDF for educational purposes. Entering teams must recognize that any information submitted as part of the Challenge is at risk of inadvertent public disclosure. The organizers, judges, and other affiliates of the Challenge will NOT enter into nondisclosure agreements with entering teams.

If you have a question that is not addressed above, please contact us at

Submission Requirements

All materials submitted must be in English. Visit the Rules and FAQs page for details about the submission process and eligibility requirements. In addition to these guidelines, we strongly recommend that you carefully review the judging criteria before submitting your entry.

In order to enter the Challenge, your team must provide the following:

  1. Team Information: Names and email addresses for all team members, location, and school and advisor/mentor name, if relevant.
  2. Project title (70 character limit)
  3. Design concept overview (300 words maximum): A brief overview of your design concept. This text will be used to describe your project in our public online submissions gallery.
  4. Design concept image (JPG format): A photograph, rendering, or illustration representing your design concept . This will be the primary image used to identify your project on our website or in related media.
  5. Team photo (JPG format): The team photo will be used in our gallery of submissions and/or in related media. The photo should depict all team members.
  6. Video pitch (3 minutes maximum): The video should provide an overview of your design, highlight your design process, convey key discoveries or insights, and ultimately convince the judges that your idea has merit. The video must be uploaded to and publicly available for view. For advice on creating your video, download this guide:  "Tips for Your Video Pitch"
  7. Project presentation document (PDF format, 15 pages or less, no larger than A4 size): A presentation in the form of PowerPoint or Keynote slides (or similar text and image layout). This document will not be made public. See below for details on the content that this presentation must include.

Presentation Document Requirements

  • An overview of your scoping process.
  • An overview of your biological inspiration process, including:
    • A list of all of the organisms and biological strategies you considered, including at least two local organisms in your biome.
    • A description and at least one illustration showing an understanding of the biological strategy that was emulated to create the design;
    • A description and at least one illustration showing how the biological strategy was incorporated into the design;
    • An explanation of how nature's unifying patterns were considered and applied to the design, including evidence of how they help your design achieve valid and significant environmental or social wins.
  • The business case for your proposed solution. A discussion of value proposition and target customer segments is required; a Business Model Canvas is optional.
  • Next steps: A description of the current limitations of your design and a description of next steps, obstacles to be overcome for the design to be implemented, and unknown factors to be considered (e.g. materials needed, engineering tests required, etc.)
  • Team makeup and dynamic: An overview of team member disciplines and how you worked together as a team.
  • References: A list of all references and sources, including experts consulted.

Copyright Notice:

When you submit, you will check a box to verify that your entry is the original work of the team members listed on the Submission Form. Doing so confirms that your entry is free of copyright infringement. If any copyrighted materials are used in your submission they must be properly credited and follow U.S. Fair Use guidelines. This resource from the University of Texas offers more information about US copyright and Fair Use qualifications.

Ready to submit? Click here to start your entry.

(Note: Only Team Leaders can begin the submission process. For more detail, see the FAQ's


Judging Criteria

All entries will be evaluated according to the following seven criteria. 

Biomimicry Process25%
Context and Relevance15%
Social and Environmental Benefits15%
Communication and Presentation10%

Detailed Criteria

Biomimicry Process

  • How well do you demonstrate and document an understanding of function and biological strategies?
  • Did you effectively identify relevant biological strategies applicable to your design challenge?
  • Did you identify multiple biological strategies before identifying the most relevant strategies for emulation? How did you determine and prioritize the strategies most relevant to your design?
  • Did you identify any deep/overarching patterns among the strategies you identified?
  • How well do you show a clear connection between a biological mechanism, process, pattern, or system, and how the design concept submitted emulate that natural model or models?

Context and Relevance

  • How well do you define your specific challenge/problem?
  • How well do you understand the context, design criteria, and constraints of the challenge you decided to work on?
  • What are the benefits/impacts that your design concept has on your specific challenge/problem?


  • Does your design concept represent a promising technology and/or solution? (i.e. show evidence of preliminary market understanding or research)
  • Have you talked to appropriate stakeholders (customers, end users, strategic partners, etc.) or in any way assessed or documented the likely feasibility and impact of your design concept?

Social and Environmental Benefits

  • Will adoption of your design lead to significant social, cultural, and/or environmental wins? E.g., does your design concept improve accessibility for a percentage of the population; help low income populations meet basic needs; address product lifecycle effects on the environment; address issues of toxicity, reduced material usage, and waste reduction; etc.
  • How well do you understand and address the underlying sustainability problems you aim to solve?
  • Have you articulated and defined any sustainability problems?
  • Have you provided more than shallow evidence of how your design concept will address sustainability concerns?
  • How have you applied nature's unifying patterns in your design?


  • How novel is the innovation and/or biological inspiration?
  • If something like your design concept has already been proposed, does your solution offer significant comparative advantages or greater depth to the emulation?

Communication and Presentation

  • Do your submission materials (e.g. presentation document, video, etc.) provide a clear overall description of the biomimicry process you followed?
  • Do your submission materials describe/communicate well your proposed design concept?
  • Is the value proposition clear?
  • Do you support your design arguments with relevant, properly attributed data/information to enhance your credibility?
  • Are your visual materials (e.g. design concept sketch rendering and video) informative, and clear in how they describe your design concept?


  • Have you sought out experts and mentors as needed?
  • Is your team interdisciplinary and does it have the right skills to address the specific challenge selected?
  • Is your team clearly motivated to continue working on this solution beyond the design concept stage?
  • Do you have the key people (team members, advisors) and core capabilities (interdisciplinary backgrounds/expertise) you need to move on to the next phase of the competition? If not, are you seeking outside assistance to fill those gaps?