COURSE: Nature Inspired Innovation and Design

Summary Description

This course will introduce the various sustainability related conceptions of the innovation, development, and design of human systems with an emphasis on nature inspired andregenerative solutions. Topics will include: The role of innovation in addressing local and global challenges; Living systems principles for appropriate design and technology and; Schools of thought derived from an ecological worldview (e.g. regenerative theory, biomimicry, cradle to cradle, industrial ecology, circular economy, performance economy, etc.). The latter half of the course will be project based, providing students with the opportunity to apply living systems thinking to challenges in their communities and/or with industry partners.


Course Instructor

Does this course carry Credit Value



Credits Value (where applicable)

Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, CO USA


Duration (Number of Hours)



Course Format




Course Booking Options

Already scheduled – learners can enrol direct

Available for booking by academic institutions

Available for booking by employers

Available for booking by learner groups

Maximum Number of Students




Classroom and practical setting



Spring 2019


Syllabus Plan – summary of the structure and academic content of the module

Week 1: Introduction to Nature Inspired Innovation

Week 2: Biomimicry and Cradle to Cradle

Week 3: Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology

Week 4: Regenerative Design, Development, and Innovation

Week 5: Design and Innovation Tools for Sustainability

Week 6: Life Cycle Perspectives

Week 7: Creative Problem Solving

Week 8: Collaborative Outreach

Week 9: Business Model Canvas

Week 10: Design Concept Report


Intended Learning Outcomes – on completion of this module, students will be able to…

● Understand how the principles of living systems can influence the design of human systems at multiple levels of application.

● Explore contemporary work related to an ecological worldview in innovation and design (e.g. circular systems, benign chemistry, life based design) vs mechanistic world view (e.g., take-make-waste systems of production and consumption, conceptualizing organizations and economies as machines).

● Discover the history and applicability of varied sustainability-related conceptions of development, design, and innovation (i.e., Degenerative – Green – Sustainable – Resilient – Regenerative).

● Study the role of the private sector in development and responsible innovation.

● Develop entrepreneurial skills in the application of innovation and design to projects and organizations.

● Identify public sector and government agency efforts to enable principles of regeneration, circular economy, and biomimicry in the management of public lands and resources.

● Identify regenerative design opportunities within students’ own professions, organizations, or projects.

● Develop a network of design professionals and colleagues.

● Gain practical and marketable skills associated with sustainability-oriented innovation and design.

● Acquire a vernacular and fluency around the concepts and practices of design in environmental management.


This course serves the following UN Sustainable Development Goals. For a fuller description of the SDGs please visit

SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities

SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption & Production

SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

Teaching & Learning Methods


Guided Independent Study/Research

Group Project Work

Experiential Learning

Industry/Field Visits

Capstone Project

Assessment Methods

Individual Written Assignment

Group Written Assignment

Individual Presentation

Group Presentation

Feedback Methods

Written feedback to individual student

Written feedback to group of students

Key Learning Resources

Required Text: Bioinspiration In Business And Management: Innovating For Sustainability by Taryn Mead, PhD Other digital texts will also be distributed weekly.

For more information about this course, please contact:

Dr Taryn Mead

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