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Friday, February 25, 2011

On February 24, 2011 the Entrepreneurs' Afternoon took place, sponsored by the Forum Mittelstand at WHU — Otto Beisheim School of Management in cooperation with the IHK Koblenz and the IHK Bonn Rhein-Sieg. With the theme of "Bionics — Product Ideas and Sol

On February 24, 2011 the Entrepreneurs' Afternoon took place, sponsored by the Forum Mittelstand at WHU — Otto Beisheim School of Management in cooperation with the IHK Koblenz and the IHK Bonn Rhein-Sieg.

With the theme of "Bionics — Product Ideas and Solutions from Nature," representatives from Festo, ITV Denkendorf, and INPRO presented the newest innovations in the field of bionics and biomimetics.

The event was aimed at businesses in every industrial sector. The goal was to get acquainted with successful concepts in the field of bionics, and then assess and derive potential applications from them that might benefit these businesses.
Markus Fischer, Director of Corporate Design for Festo AG & Co.KG, thrilled conference participants with an animation of the Aqua_ray, a remote-controlled device propelled by actuators that resemble flippers. The robot looked like the manta ray on which it was based so much that it could actually have been mistaken for one. As a further highlight, he presented the bionic handling assistant, which won the company the 2010 German Futures Prize. The structure and functionality of the handling assistant, inspired by the trunk of an elephant, makes it possible for people and machines to work together efficiently and without hazard. Possible applications of the handling assistant are in the areas of industry, agriculture, health care, and nursing.
Dr. Thomas Stegmaier, Director of the "Center of Biomimetic Innovations for the Industry" at ITV, demonstrated many concrete examples of how nature has served as a source of innovation in the development of textiles. As an example, he described the capabilities of the desert beetle onymacris unguicularis, which manages to "catch" the fog in the Namib Desert in Namibia and extract the water it needs to survive. The unique technique this insect uses was adapted by ITV and used as a model for new textiles used in irrigation technologies. "Nature is ahead of us in so many things, and we don't understand everything by any means, but we are learning from nature and developing innovative ideas for textiles," Stegmaier said.
The last lecture of this exciting Entrepreneurs' Afternoon was principally about evolutionary algorithms. In it, Dr. Michael Herdy described how technical systems could be optimized by using biological evolution as a model. In this way it is possible, for example, to optimize coffee blends or optical lenses through the use of evolutionary strategies.

The participants were once again delighted by the fascinating event sponsored by the Forum Mittelstand. Prof. Thomas Fischer, Head of the Chair of Business Information Science and Information Management, brought the day to a close with a view to the next Entrepreneurs' Afternoon. He remarked, "The topic of the next Entrepreneurs' Afternoon might be 'Bionics and Management,' because we could certainly also gain interesting insight from nature for a university like WHU."