Interview with Julian Vincent

Dr. Julian Vincent is the director of Biomimetic and Natural Technologies and professor of Biomimetics at the Department of Mechanical Engineering - University of Bath. He is also an associate chief editor since 2003 for the Journal of Bionic Engineering.

View the film (25.4 MB. QuickTime 7 required).

Julian Vincent

above: Julian Vincent with Susana Soares, filmed by Steve Jackman

Julian's current interests are related to how problems in processing are solved in biology in comparison with technology, "at present there is only a 10% overlap between biology and technology in terms of the mechanisms used". In technology 70% involve manipulation of energy and in biology most important is the use and manipulation of information, from DNA to pheromones.

For almost four billion years the process of evolution has steadily invented and refined the mechanisms of the natural world, solving the problems of survival with elegantly efficient and perfectly optimised systems.

Current and recent research projects at the Centre involve the application of biological methods and systems developed by nature to a whole range of engineering design problems. Jumping robots, adaptive fabrics, a problem solving system called TRIZ, partly based in the behaviour of ants and materials based in nature that can provide a new model for scientific advance.

Some of the key issues that rose during the conversation involve:

  • Using fungus to grow an integrated circuit
  • Technological systems vs. biological systems
  • How sustainable are biological systems in comparison to technological ones?

Julian says that "in technological systems we are outside and we are making, you destroy the existing information" and building upon that "which requires huge amounts of energy"..."in a biological system you start with the built in information and develop further" making it more sustainable.

Other topics in the conversation include:

  • Ecologies of invasion vs. ecologies of resources
  • Are we (humans) an ecology of invasion, are we getting to a limit of energy consumption and resources?
  • Do we need to start to think in the way biology thinks and considering what is going to happen next?


Julian Vincent was Inerviewed by Susana Soares on 12/11/07