Biomimicry: these startups that innovate thanks to nature

Posted on Oct 25, 2022, 6am

Nature has been busy much longer than we have! He has been carrying out his own research for hundreds of thousands of years… “The more our environmental issues become crucial, the more we rediscover that living beings can be part of the solution”, comments Alain Renaudin, president of NewCorp Adviser and founder of the Biomim exhibition. ‘expo that starts this October 25th in Paris.

This professional has been adding innovative players in biomimicry in France for several years. In other words, startups that replicate the capabilities of living beings in their technology. During ten years, this sector raised 500 million euros, observes a study published on the occasion of the exhibition.

The leaders are Prophesee, a camera inspired by the human retina that saves energy and data transfer, and Tissium, a surgical glue inspired by molluscs, which have amassed more than 100 million euros in funding each.

But also M2I Life Sciences (80 million euros raised), which creates alternative and ecological pesticides, inspired by the communication strategies of insects. The start-up reproduces its pheromones in the laboratory to fight pests in fields, vineyards, forests, etc.

Mainly deep technology projects

“The idea was to put existing academic knowledge and industrial tools at the service of new technologies and new market needs. We used existing know-how to convert it into the pesticide growing market”, says Johann Fournil, director of partnerships and CSR at the start-up. The company has around 185 employees, four industrial units in France, with around thirty families of patents filed and marketing in 65 countries.

But who says that biomimicry doesn’t necessarily mean positive impact on the environment, even though the solutions are often intended to be more sober. Many startups are evolving in human health, such as Corwave (heart pumps inspired by sea waves) or Enyo Pharma (drug platform inspired by virus strategies). And most are innovative technologies, therefore deeptechs, with the same problems this industry is facing: cautious investors, heavy R&D and a long return on investment.

This is one of the reasons why Bpifrance continues to be the structure that has participated most in the financing of these structures, according to the study. Already through its numerous subsidies, but also thanks to its 3 billion euro plan aimed at making France a “deeptech nation” by 2025. Then come Sofinnova Partners (health and biotechnology funds) and Crédit Mutuel Equity, specializing in science. of life and deeptech.

“We are at the beginning of something that is happening. They are investments in construction for a very simple reason: it is not easy for funds to identify what is related to biomimetics and it is difficult to assess”, says Alain Renaudin. To help them, it also intends to launch a group that brings together investors, entrepreneurs, industrialists and scientists to, in particular, guide them in the evaluation of projects.

biological light

The start-up Glowee preferred to use crowdfunding, with 1.3 million euros raised. “Our business typology hardly fits the boxes: a technology between biotech and deeptech, which targets public markets. That requires patient capital,” says Sandra Ray, the founder, who has also turned to family offices.

Its start-up, born in 2014, produces light of biological origin and biodegradable from marine bacteria for urban furniture installations (signage, lampposts, etc.). A way to reduce light pollution in cities, but also the impact of light on biodiversity. In December, the company will start its first pilot project in the town of Rambouillet in Yvelines.

“All the organic inspired solutions that are emerging are not yet the dominant ones. But the proofs of concept are there”, believes Alain Renaudin from Biomim’expo, and to mention other countries are much more at the forefront, such as Germany or the United States.

If the biomimetic approach is not yet an argument presented to convince investors, it has the virtue of being easily understandable. “Pheromones speak to everyone. We’ve all seen a dog or a cat drop it. Biomimicry is an argument that creates the obvious”, comments Johann Fournil of M2I Life Sciences. The same goes for Glowee, with its firefly equivalences… which give an almost poetic idea of ​​innovation.

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