Transdisciplinary design practices in education: A complex search for innovation in nature

2019-09-17T14:06:27Z (GMT) by John McCardle Ross Angus James Trott
Working across, between or even beyond established disciplines necessitates effective collaboration, and there are well acknowledged models of associating business and science. Evidence suggests a worldwide increase of cross-disciplinary working as partnerships transcend the confines of predefined and historical silos. However, associations between design, engineering and many branches of life science, lags. While there is increasing interest in bioinspired design, formalised methods are not, as yet, well established, adopted in industry or part of design curricula. Biomimicry as a route to innovation is currently thought to rely on the collaboration between the diverse disciplines of Biology, Design and Engineering in order to be successful. However, current academic research into multidisciplinary collaboration within Engineering and Product Design education appears limited. This study describes the findings of a small-scale research project exploring the attitudes of professionals in relevant fields regarding interdisciplinary collaboration with a specific focus on biomimicry. The work compares current views on collaborative work in biomimicry with the opinions of an expert panel. Two rounds of questionnaires utilising the Delphi method were used to gain insights from an anonymised panel of experts. The research concluded that while biologist/designer collaboration can spark imagination and enthusiasm, it is a challenging process and its efficacy will depend upon understanding and motivation from the onset. The discussion and conclusions focus on the need for more efficient methods to encourage successful collaboration across life sciences and the impact on design education at HE and beyond. Importantly it draws attention to possible attitudes of indifference towards inter and transdisciplinary partnerships.