Cancelled Innovation - Inspired by Nature

Course content

Throughout history, nature has continuously inspired humans to create better and new solutions to our problems. Among other things, it has inspired hunting strategies, agriculture, modern technology, design solutions, business models, and even structures in social organization and communication. In the knowledge-driven societies of today and considering the big global challenges we face, innovation based on biology is becoming even more important in our transition towards a sustainable bio-based society. Innovation requires that imagination is combined with knowledge and multiple competencies – and thus demands that people from different disciplines engage in open collaboration.

The course consists of two parts.

In Part 1 we look to nature for innovative solutions, engaging knowledge on biological levels of increasing complexity:
a) cells and organisms (shape and function)
b) populations and communities (interaction and functional diversity)
c) ecosystems (network properties and mechanisms).

These natural elements are all part of systems, which are highly optimized via natural selection.

We employ ecological and evolutionary aspects as a framework to understand and generalize from specific phenomena into general principles. New state-of-the-art innovation methods are introduced at each level to facilitate this process, giving students the opportunity to practice innovation on selected biological elements. During the course, inspirational talks from PLEN-based and external researchers will present case studies from real life, demonstrating the transmission from knowledge and ideas into products and patents.

In Part 2 we take a problem-based approach, using innovation inspired by nature to solve an existing problem or challenge in industry. This part of the course brings together teachers and students from KU-SCIENCE and DTU – representing different disciplines, interests, and educational backgrounds such as natural resources, biology, biotechnology, engineering and design.

Based on the input of companies, non-profit, or governmental organizations, students collaborate in multidisciplinary groups to design, build and develop innovative solutions to specific problems.

Learning outcome

The course develops students’ ability to foster innovative solutions inspired by nature within a multidisciplinary context. They learn to manage innovation processes based on inspiration gained from the plethora of highly evolved biological functions, systems and processes found in nature. Students gain a basic set of theories and tools for solution- as well as problem-based innovation and design. They learn to create, select and transform ideas into a new prototype, concept, or process within a multidisciplinary context. These learning outcomes are framed in a clear perspective of commercialization and implementation strategies towards private, non-profit, or governmental organizations.

After completing the course, the student is expected to be able to:


  • Understand biological and ecological elements as a source for innovation
  • Provide an overview of concept and theory of innovation management, innovation process models, exploitation and exploration, and creation
  • Describe different innovation models and methods



  • Read and interpret specific articles and textbook chapters
  • Generalize and categorize biological solutions according to a specific assignment/topic
  • Find and explain the evolved solution of specific issues
  • Adapt novel tools for innovative creation
  • Distribute tasks and responsibilities in a multidisciplinary environment
  • Communicate ideas clearly, concisely and confidently in writing and orally



  • Discuss, evaluate and decide among creative solutions to a given problem
  • Make use of own and other persons competences in multidisciplinary work
  • Manage a collaboration process in a multidisciplinary setting, uniting the competences and backgrounds present in the whole group
  • Transfer biological knowledge into innovative solutions within a commercial context

Part 1 (course weeks 1-5): Lectures and e-learning modules focusing on biological elements within different levels of organization: cells, organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems; Group work and written assignments, applying biomimicry and innovation methods on those biological elements.

Part 2 (course weeks 6-8): Multi-disciplinary group work (uniting students from KU and DTU), taking a problem-based approach to real-world problems; Group work, having members from both KU and DTU, are guided by teachers with different biological-technical-entrepreneurial expertise to facilitate the innovation process and progress; During plenum sessions, students train their critical thinking and communication skills by giving and receiving feedback on their venture idea in the form of intermediary pitch talks and final product presentations.

Course material consists of handouts, selected scientific papers and book chapters. Students are expected to identify additional group-specific literature.

Further information will be availble on Absalon.

The course is multidisciplinary, and students will work in a number of functions and draw on a diverse set of experience and knowledge. Particular prerequisites are therefore not defined

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Feedback during Part 1

  • In-plenum feedback from teachers and peers to student's oral presentations
  • Peer discussion and teacher supervision of group projects
  • Written assessment of the individual written assignment


Feedback during Part 2

  • Peer discussion and supervision of group projects
  • In-plenum feedback from teachers and peers to students' oral group presentations
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 20 min under invigilation
Written assignment based on Part 1 and oral presentation of group work (Part 2)
No preparation time before the oral examination.
The two parts count equally in the final assesment.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examinator
Criteria for exam assessment

The assesment will be on based the learning outcomes

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Class Instruction
  • 10
  • Preparation
  • 60
  • Practical exercises
  • 25
  • E-Learning
  • 20
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Guidance
  • 6
  • Exam
  • 5
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
No limit
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Lars Pødenphant Kiær   (3-7478734878746d7636737d366c73)
Multidisciplinary course between KU Science and DTU Mekanik

Organisation of teaching:
The course will draw on the expertise from teachers affiliated to both contributing Universities for lectures, exercises and group facilitation.

Saved on the 29-04-2021

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