Design Out Waste: Call for participants in Biomimicry Design Challenge 2021

UNDP and the Institute of Biomimicry (USA) are announcing an all-Ukrainian competition to find ideas inspired by natural systems and organisms that solve the waste problem.

Photo: UNDP Ukraine

We invite engineers, designers, inventors, innovators, students and all who are interested in nature-inspired solutions to human problems to apply for the Biomimicry Online Course and the Challenge.

This year's Challenge motto is #DesignOutWaste!

On average, over 15 million tons of waste is produced in Ukraine each year, with an average per person rate of 0.93Kg per day.

Disposal of this waste is entirely to landfill, open dumping, or open burning, with over 94 percent being disposed of this way (14.4 million tons per year), compared to only around 3 percent being recycled, and the rest being sent to the single operational incinerator.

How can we remediate landfills? Or how can we stop waste from going to landfilling or being open burned? Or what if we could prevent waste and pollution from even occurring in the first place?

We hope to find solutions with you, by looking at how nature is dealing with “waste”. Surprise, surprise, there is no waste in nature. Can we do the same?

This year Challenge will consist of a free short experimental e-course and the Challenge itself. This means that you will have a chance to learn more about biomimicry before applying for the Challenge. Yes, you hear it well, no previous knowledge of biomimicry is needed! However, interest and skills in sustainability, design and/or nature related subjects are a Must!

E- Course

We invite all interested parties to learn more on biomimicry in a short experimental e-course. The course will consist of 4 weeks (April, 2021) and will include 4 live webinars with Q&A sessions. The webinars will be held in Ukrainian, while the e-course will be available in 3 languages: English, Ukrainian and Arabic.

Register your interest here!

The National Biomimicry Challenge

Teams and individuals are welcome to apply!

In order to register your biomimetic idea and participate in the National Biomimicry Challenge, please fill in the questionnaire.

What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry describes the process of learning from and mimicking strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. In essence, nature has already found a solution to all the challenges we face.

For example, there is no “waste” in nature!

The current  industrial system is based on the linear make-use-waste approach. This approach is fundamentally flawed because it runs counter to the living world which thrives by designing life’s building blocks to be infinitely reusable.

There is no waste in nature. Everything is a nutrient that is reused all the time. Someones’ “waste” is someone else's shelter or food. Mimicking these natural designs and processes can help humans propel towards designing societies that sustainably use and maintain energy, reject toxins, reuse material and so on.

Examples of nature #DesignOutWaste:

Biological Inspiration - Trees

In nature, the recycling loop isn’t direct. Wood doesn’t directly become wood again. Instead, wood gets broken down into its various chemical components by a host of organisms, and then those components can be utilized by even more organisms. At every stage of a log’s decay, some organism finds a use for the log. It becomes a shelter for some, a place to perform a mating dance for others, and a place to store seeds or acorns. Even before a dead tree falls, other organisms start breaking down the carbohydrates and proteins in the trunk and branches, drawing energy from them and creating by-products or waste that other organisms can use. Some fungi are able to break down a complex chemical compound called lignin, which few other organisms can handle. The fungus makes the components in lignin available to other organisms to use as building blocks for new chemicals.

Design Solution - InterfaceFlor

InterfaceFlor, which produces modular carpets, is the first carpet manufacturer to implement a process for the “clean separation” of carpet fiber from backing. This allows for a maximum amount of post-consumer material to be recycled into new products, with minimal contamination. Through their process, called ReEntry® 2.0, clean, post-consumer nylon fiber is returned to Interface’s fiber supplier. There, in combination with some virgin materials, it is recycled into new nylon for use in new carpet fiber. At the same time, the backing material is crumbled and transformed into new backing. Plastics that can’t be used for Interface processes or products are distributed to other industry suppliers for re-use in their material streams.

Material from the Biomimicry Toolbox (with permission from the Biomimicry Institute)

Find out more example of biomimicry here:

Find out more about last year Challenge:

Criteria to be selected for the National Challenge:

●       Apply with a team or individually. Be ready to work in a team;

●       Basic knowledge of English (at least intermediate level, B1);

●       No age restrictions;

●       Your idea should solve a problem and should be linked to waste issues;

●       Your idea, design or project should be biomimetic - mimic the solution inspired by natural systems or organisms;

●       You have a design concept - a picture or a prototype of your design solution or idea;

●       You have a strong desire to develop large-scale ideas to an international level.

Applicants selected at the national level will receive mentors who will assist them in preparing public presentations and developing their design concepts.

The three selected candidates/teams will receive mentoring and support from UNDP Ukraine’s Accelerator Lab and its partners in preparing the project and submitting it to the international Biomimicry Global Challenge. The three winners of the National Biomimicry Challenge will also participate in the Ukrainian Future Business Incubator - UF Startup Summer Intensive by the National centre of the Junior Academy of Science.

The successful candidates for the national round of the contest will also be able to scale up their innovative idea and find international partners through UNDP’s international network of 60 Accelerator Labs.

Applicants selected at the international level will be able to attend the Biomimicry Institute's Launchpad in the United States with the support of the organizers, provided the pandemic situation in Ukraine and the United States has ended.

Timeline of the Challenge:

9 - 30 April 2021  - Experimental e-course on Biomimicry (open for registered participants)

16 May 2021  - Deadline to submit ideas for the National Biomimicry Challenge

1 June 2021 - Announcement of the winners of the National Biomimicry Challenge

30 June 2021 - Submission deadline for the International Challenge

July 2021 (dates to be announced) National winners participate in the UF Startup Summer Intensive

15 September 2021 - Public announcement of 2021 BGDC Finalists & announcement about BGDC 2022 registration

Challenge conditions

By 16 May 2021 you will need to complete an online questionnaire, which will address the following topics and require the following documents:

●       CV in Ukrainian or English;

●       Proof of knowledge of English (state your level in the questionnaire, no certificates required);

●       Name and description of the project (150 words);

●       Define the problem you are trying to solve and how it links to waste issue (up to 150 words);

●       How does your solution address the problem or opportunity you selected? (up to 150 words);

●       What organisms/natural systems helped inform your design or idea and how? (up to 150 words)

●       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 publicly. To ensure quality, please upload images that are high resolution format (at least 300 DPI, max. 100 MB)

You can apply individually or with a team to the Challenge. Please note that only teams will be accepted to participate in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, we will help you to form a team in case you are qualified for the National round.

Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact


About the Challenge

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is an annual competition that calls on teams of students and professionals to address critical global issues and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals with nature-inspired solutions.

The National Biomimicry Challenge is the national selection round of the Global Biomimicry Challenge. It is co-organized by the UNDP Accelerator Labs in partnership with the Biomimicry Institute in the United States, Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Ukrainian Future Business Incubator of the National Centre of “Junior Academy of Science of Ukraine'', the Biodiversity Foundation, NGO Plato, NGO Tarilka, Change Agency Responsible Future, as well as businesses, local authorities and universities.

To find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals, please register for free online e-courses developed by UNDP Ukraine.