Consortium meeting, members only
Location & date:to be determined

Project leader:
Erik Tempelman
015 278 3270

Action researchers:
Ernst-Jan Mul

Bram van der Grinten
Nature Inspired Design

PtL & NID Symposium
Nov. 6th 2014

Circular Product Design Symposium

The TU Delft hosted a Circular Product Design event on 6 November at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering in the Joost van der Grinten hall. This one-day event explored these opportunities, together with some of the world’s pioneers of the circular economy. It revolved around the question: ‘the economy is changing, what do I need to know, experience and do?’.
The symposium is recorded by Collegerama TU Delft, and can be looked back via these links:

Welcome (9:00 - 9:05) - by David Peck
Session 1 (9:05 - 10:45) - with Rich Gilbert, Jon Mason and Dave Hakkens
Session 2, 3 and 4 (11:15 - 16:30) - with Ingrid de Pauw, Toby Kiers, Michael Neusüß, Conny Bakker, Koen de Snoo, Jon Mason, Rodrigo Bautista and others.

June 5th 2014

G21 Swisstainability

Presentation shown at
Swisstainability 2014, Lausanne
Nov. 1st 2013

O2 Workshop Nature Inspired Design

Past event, Presented by AgentschapNL, TUDelft and O2Netherlands
When: 1-11-2013, 16:00 – 21:00
Where: “Uit je eigen stad”, Marconistraat 39, 3029 AG, Rotterdam

This workshop has been a successful opportunity to share results from the NID project to date with practitioners outside the consortium. Following the insights that inspiration from nature, chain collaboration and context analysis are key in developing successful products with positive impact, we challenged the participants to find opportunities in six fields:

  • Functions: describing the primary utility and how to provide them taking inspiration from nature
  • Fulfill: maximizing additional benefits as nature creates conditions conducive to nature
  • Collaborate: creating strategic partnerships in the industrial ecosystem
  • Connect: tapping into existing flows of products and services around the product
  • Give: defining effluents that are beneficial to the product´s context in its life cycle
  • Take: resources that you need throughout the life cycle and that are available in the context

The feedback was mostly positive; this tool triggered original yet plausible new ways to solve the problems the cases represented. We also found ways to improve, the next iteration of the NID method will be more comprehensive, including more of the tools developed in NIDwiki and structuring a larger span of the product development process. Stay tuned.
Newsletter 03
Oct 2013

From analysis to synthesis

On may 30th the consortium met at Interface’s Awarehouse in Scherpenzeel for a workshop, discussions and updates. It was clear that the project had shifted from the understanding of NID application to the application of NID understanding.

Six months earlier the partner companies were introduced to the NIDwiki, the consortium’s online platform where tools are shared and refined. Since then the NID wiki has been a resource for the companies with ongoing cases and the three NID graduates.

The application of the new and re-purposed tools was supported by the two action-researchers through workshops and mentoring the graduate students. This close collaboration offers a real-time view into the fuzzy practice of design. The research revealed how some tools turn out to be redundant, how others could be improved, and on which part of the design process the NID method should focus.

That turns out to be the fuzzy front end, where the scope and targets of a project are determined. The best practice is to have all stakeholders involved at that stage, and to state the intentions of the project together. That requires ‘Selling NID to stakeholders’, which was the theme for the meeting. The conclusions that were drawn there will underpin the next iteration of the NID method.

Consortium meeting at the Awarehouse


Regulations, scarcity and consumer demand for sustainable products have sparked an interest in the advancing methods for sustainable product development amongst the design community. NID can help designers to respond to these challenges.

The TU Delft is developing post-graduate education, and NID contributed to the IDE Master Class on sustainable design strategies by Conny Bakker. Twelve professionals from nine companies attended the two-day programme. An insightful lecture on developments in the understanding of environmental issues and forthcoming regulations established the importance of the problem and introduced the state-of-the-art solutions. The C2C and Biomimicry tools were selected from NIDwiki. The participants left with great ideas, new solving strategies and high spirits.

NID research papers

How do companies perceive the promises and benefits of NID? What are the barriers towards application? Which solutions can remove these barriers? How can these solutions be implemented? These are the questions we set out to answer in the first NID paper.

Using in-depth interviews, interview transcript codification and analysis, the state of the art in nature-inspired design (NID) at nine companies has been assessed at the level of actual, recent design projects.

NID comes to the forefront as a promising but challenging new design paradigm, delivering mixed results and not always fulfilling its promise of “doing good instead of less bad”. Barriers towards project success and market impact include lack of managerial support and resources, lack of specific information and (for some designers) limited NID experience. Analysis of best practice reveals that companies that applied a top-down approach, set positive and ambitious targets, and included value chain partners early on in the project were generally successful in removing such barriers.

Another paper, on how the production-oriented C2C and product-oriented biomimicry methods can complement each other in NID is currently in draft.

Three nature inspired design cases delivered

Modular bin for all available resources

An adaptable resource collection system

The motto of the waste management company van Gansewinkel is “waste no more”. Their business to business branch, ecosmart, specialises in resource collection trough product service system. The product, smartbin, separates waste at the workstation but it could be better attuned to the system around it.

In his graduation project, Roald Piera designed a modular system of bins that can be combined to suit the specific waste flows and volumes in its context. It is also easier to use for both ‘resource provider’ and collection crew.

This case is a good example how the context and system thinking that NID requires can result in user benefits, economic benefits as well as ecological benefits.

A user-aware relaxation and revitalisation hub

In pursuit of sustainable well-being, Philips design is investigating adaptive environments, spaces with unobtrusive technology that react to the people inside.

Soothing aspects of natural environments include the simple, intuitive and physical interaction with them, ambient sound and slowly changing light. Could nature inspired design bring these aspects into an office for a break from screens and meetings?

In order to answer that question in a graduation project, Federico Trevia detailed and built a space, the size of which depends on your position and posture and the color of which depends on your level of activity.

Trough the NID consortium Interface knew the project and contributed a flooring system to house the sensors.

Reactive space for stress relief at work

Fully cyclic toner packaging system

A design lifecycle for toner packaging

The colorwave is Océ’s green flagship printing system, and it uses harmless toner pearls in stead of the more risky toner powder. But these pearls are packaged and used in cartridges that are discarded after use, whilst they are durable enough to be used over and over.

The return and reuse of these cartridges is economically non-viable, the recycling is problematic and in a global market any such system is incredibly complicated to establish.
Before redesigning the package, Kay van’t Hof designed its life cycle, defining different lifetimes for different parts of the product. In his graduation project he developed a durable cartridge and disposable refilling boxes, both easily recyclable, that still guarantee uncontaminated toner, but at a fraction of the cost and impact.

Nieuwsletter 02
March 2012

Expanding the consortium

Because of the growing interest in Nature Inspired Design, and the quality of our consortium Lely and Interface are happy to join the project.

Interface is well-known for their forest-floor inspired carpet tiles and their glueless, gecko-feet inspired carpet installer. Lely’s cow-milking systems are amongst the most innovative agricultural robots in the world. Lely had set its goal to contribute to an energy positive farm, and has set a big step towards this goal by acquiring wind farm technologies. With both companies joining, we will work on two new cases, and learn from experienced partners. At the next consortium meeting we will have plenty of time to get to know each other better.

NIDwiki: a tool to make tools

The NID research pivots around creating and improving tools for Nature Inspired Design and to do that, we have created a new tool: the NIDwiki.

NIDwiki is a website on which the users (the consortium) build, remove, add and change content. The main content is a collection of tools that emerged from the best practice interviews with the consortium and from literature. As these tools are applied in practice they will be honed through reflection, comments and adaptations. In addition, the NIDwiki is also a platform for communication within the consortium, more transparent than email and providing valuable research data.

NIDwiki: online collaborative tool for NID

Nature Inspired graduates

Three of the NID cases have yielded graduate positions. We are proud to present the IDE graduate candidates that will contribute to Nature Inspired Design.

Besides high grades and inspiring projects, they each have experience applying either cradle to cradle or biomimicry to product design.

O2 event

On the 18th of October, in collaboration with O2 Netherlands, we held a meeting to present the results of the first phase to a larger public. The meeting was held at the new location of the established design agency Fabrique. Theo Wolters, founder of Fabrique Invent, was our enthousiastic host for the evening.

O2 Netherlands is an association of sustainable designers. They are known for their interest in the latest developments in sustainable design. Their advice, amongst other things, was:

- to focus the research on NID specific bottlenecks, like collaboration with the supply chain and with biologists; - to make the method flexible enough to be applicable in a wide range of situations.

The next O2 NID event will be a workshop taking place in the second project phase.

Various design cases

The tools on the NIDwiki are being applied to a wide range of design cases. IDEAL&CO collaborates with Ro&Ad to design a holiday park that enhances nature, Lely builds a milking robot that adapts to circumstances, Océ, VGG and Philips have teams working on the graduation cases. As in nature, variation spurs widely applicable NID tools.

Last meeting

The 8th of November, the consortium met at AVR Rozenburg, van Gansewinkel’s waste-to-energy plant in Rotterdam. We discussed the cases proposed by all partners and set our first steps in the NIDwiki. The day was closed with a guided tour of the refuse incinerators of AVR. Even though these installations retrieve a good amount of embodied energy, the sight of so many materials lost gave an extra incentive to dive into NID.


Within the PhD-research on Nature- Inpired Design Strategies, which runs in parallel with our project, Ingrid de Pauw has performed a case study of designers that applied Cradle to Cradle for the design of a presentation system for fairs and exhibitions.

This study provides insights on how designers can benefit from this strategy for developing sustainable products. The results will be presented at the 2013 CIRP-LCE Conference, and shared with the consortium.

Nieuwsletter 01
August 2012

Een nieuw project!

‘Nature Inspired Design’ is het ontwerpen van producten met positieve impact en niet, zoals bij traditioneel ecodesign vaak het geval is, met alleen maar minder negatieve impact.

Het wordt afgekort tot ‘NID’ en dat is dan uit te spreken als ‘en-idee’, want het doel is om vanuit de natuur met ideeën en ontwerpen te komen die economisch én ecologisch voordelig zijn. De laatste tijd zijn er twee strategieën in opkomst die dit nastreven: cradle to cradle (c2c) en biomimicry. Er is voor beide veel enthousiasme en het lijkt soms wel een hype.

Zijn de hiermee gemaakte ontwerpen nu echt duurzaam?

In hoeverre is dit door de natuur geïnspireerd ontwerpen anders dan ‘normaal’ ontwerpen?

Hoe werkt dat in de praktijk nou echt? En vooral, met welke methode?

Dit zijn de belangrijkste vragen in het project Nature Inspired Design Method, een onderzoeksproject gefinancierd door Agentschap NL, binnen het succesvolle programma IOP-IPCR; Innovatief Onderzoek Programma Integrale Product Creatie en Realisatie.

Project opzet

Samen met acht Nederlandse bedrijven onderzoekt de TU Delft, faculteit IO, de praktijk van NID, met tot doel om te komen tot een verbeterde, bewezen effectieve ontwerpmethode.

De betrokken bedrijven hebben allemaal ervaring met c2c of biomimicry. Ze variëren van klein tot groot, van ontwerper tot producent en werken aan zeer veelsoortige producten. Onze uitdaging is dan ook om samen een methode te ontwikkelen die toepasbaar is voor alle mogelijke ontwerpvraagstukken.
Een negende bedrijf kijkt met ons mee, evenals het netwerk van duurzame ontwerpers O2 Nederland, het innovatienetwerk Syntens en de botanische tuin van de TU Delft.


Cradle to cradle

Cradle to cradle is gebaseerd op drie principes van de natuur:
  1. afval = voedsel: hergebruik alle materialen als grondstof voor nieuwe producten;
  2. benut de zon: haal energie uit lokale, vernieuwbare bronnen;
  3. respecteer diversiteit: elke situatie is anders, dus stem je ontwerp af op de omgeving van het product.
EcoSmart, een dochter van van Gansewinkel, maakt de smartbin van 100% gerecycled en volledig recyclebaar kunststof, die het makkelijk maakt om afval op de werkvloer te scheiden.
Smartbin c2c: EcoSmart/ van Gansewinkel smartbin
Philips Microbial home Biomimicry: Philips Microbial Home


Biomimicry draait om het vertalen van biologische naar technologische oplossingen, bijvoorbeeld door de gestroomlijnde vorm van een vis te vertalen naar die van een auto. Maar biomimicry gaat ook over processen en systemen: software die lichtgewicht constructies laat ‘groeien’ als bomen, of industriële parken waarin fabrieken een complete ecologie nabootsen.
Na miljarden jaren evolutie weet de natuur wat werkt, en hier kan onze technologie van leren.

Philips onderzocht met het Microbial Home project de voedselkringloop in huis, bijvoorbeeld door te koken op biogas uit groenteresten.

Uitvoering en planning

De samenwerking tussen onderzoekers en bedrijven is intensief en praktijk-gericht. Na de eerste gezamenlijke verkenning (nog in 2011) en de formele start van het project in maart dit jaar zijn alle bedrijven inmiddels geïnterviewd om vast te leggen wat in de praktijk de bijzondere uitdagingen, problemen en mogelijkheden zijn van NID.

Dit solide onderzoek vormt de basis voor het ‘Best Practice Model’, de eerste versie van onze ontwerpmethode, die vanaf november 2012 door de bedrijven in de praktijk zal worden gebracht en getest. Hierbij ondersteunen de onderzoekers de acht bedrijven met raad en daad, o.a. door het ontwikkelen van specifieke ontwerptools.

De methode en tools worden vervolgens in een tweede iteratie verbeterd en eind 2013 openbaar gemaakt. Parallel hieraan doet Ingrid de Pauw, die het project in 2011 samen met Ernst-Jan Mul acquireerde, diepte-onderzoek als promovenda, hetgeen in 2014 zal uitmonden in haar proefschrift over NID als ontwerpstrategie. In datzelfde jaar wordt de methode verder verfijnd en daarna, begin 2015, verspreid, waarmee dit IOP-IPCR project zal zijn afgerond.

Hoe kunt u meedoen?

De samenwerking tussen bedrijven en onderzoekers is deels vertrouwelijk. Desondanks kunt u ons blijven volgen via onze website, nieuwsbrief en openbare presentaties.
Meedoen kan ook: in samenwerking met O2 Nederland organiseren wij twee workshops, die voor iedereen toegankelijk zijn. Verder zijn er mogelijkheden voor afstudeertrajecten. Interesse? Neem contact op met de projectleider!