Biomimicry literally means to imitate life. According to Wikipedia, biomimicry is:
"a relatively new science that studies nature, its models, systems, processes and elements and then imitates or takes creative inspiration from them to solve human problems sustainably."
The term was coined by Janine Benyus, who wrote the 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
Biomimicry is an exciting field that holds much promise for improving the design and creation of efficient and sustainable products and systems. The FutureLab blog has a great post on biomimicry and includes examples of recent new products inspired by nature.
The term was coined 11 years ago and it is still considered an emerging science and a new approach to product design. This illustrates how long it takes for most trends, technologies or innovations to mature and have a major impact on business or society.
And of course the use of biomimicry has been around for a very long time. One of the few things I remember from my college history of science class is Da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds. This manuscript descibes the detailed research he conducted on birds as part of his efforts to build a flying machine.
In a nod to nature, Da Vinci referred to his flying machine as the "great bird."
For more on biomimicry visit the non-profit Biomimicry Institute.