Fourth International Conference on Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering

pcr2.jpg24 - 26 June 2008
Algarve, Portugal


Des&Nat08.jpgThe third International Conference on Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering took place recently in the Algarve, Portugal, organised by the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT).

The Conference offered a forum to discuss a variety of studies involving nature and its significance in modern scientific thought and engineering design.

Design in engineering and science has often been inspired by nature.  This has been more evident in recent years, after a period during which our civilisation thought in terms of taming nature, rather than working in harmony with it.   The consequences of that approach are still with us and have resulted in a world increasingly homogenized, lacking in biodiversity and with increased pollution.  Mankind has been slow to learn and even slower to apply the lessons that nature offers, in spite of the urgency of our predicament.

Professor Carlos A Brebbia, Director of WIT, opened the Conference by pointing out the commitment of his Institute to all types of interdisciplinary activities such as this Conference.  Another current initiative taken by WIT has been the launching of the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, now in its third year.  This publication has attracted high quality papers from all over the world on a variety of topics.  The Journal also reflects the interest of WIT in ecological and environmental problems, as well as acting as a forum for those interested in Design and Nature.  Carlos invited the participants to consider the journal as an outlet for their scientific papers.

Carlos thanked the participants for coming to the Conference and in particular for supporting this important initiative of helping to bridge the gap between different disciplines, all of them interested in the harmonisation of design and nature.


 Keynote Address

design2.JPGCarlos then introduced Professor Stuart Burgess from the Mechanical Engineering Department of Bristol University who was invited to give the keynote address.

Stuart, Carlos said, is Professor of Design and Nature and has been instrumental in introducing the discipline in engineering courses.  His interests span a variety of topics such as efficiency modelling of structures and mechanics; structural efficiency of trees; insect flight mechanisms; roller chain wear and efficiency modelling; car transport efficiency; as well as design and nature.  He has made significant contributions in linking academic research and industrial needs.  He has received important awards such as the Prize given by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry and the Gold Medal for Engineering Design.

Carlos referred to the importance of the research carried out by Stuart and proceeded to award him the Wessex Institute Medal to Eminent Scientists, which has been awarded since 1985 to some of the best colleagues from all over the world, who are also people of integrity.  On this occasion, the award also represents the recognition of the Design and Nature community for Stuart’s pioneering efforts.

Professor Stuart Burgess’ opening address discussed the progress that has been made at Bristol University in the development of a Mini Air Vehicle (MAV).  This is aimed at developing a small (10gm) vehicle based on the studies made of insects such as moths and bumble bees.  This required the combination of weight and power taken to the limit of design optimization possibilities.

 Presentations and Sessions

There were several outstanding presentations during the Conferences:
  • “Process sequences in biomimetic research”, by T Speck, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • “Fail safe design with crack stoppers and warners”, by C Matteck, Forschungszentrum, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • “A novel spray system inspired by the bombardier beetle”, by A McIntosh, University of Leeds, UK
  • “On vortex transformations”, by MA Baez, Carleton University, Canada
  • “Dissipative structures in nature and human systems”, by RM Pulselli, University of Siena, Italy
  • “Friction in nature”, by T Liskiewicz, University of Leeds, UK
design3.JPGThe other excellent presentations during the Conference were classified in the following sections:
  • Biomimetics
  • Shape and form in engineering and nature
  • Nature and architectural design
  • Natural materials and surfaces
  • Complexity
  • Education
The Conference was particularly friendly and the exchange of information took place outside as well as inside the conference rooms.

 Social Activities

The delegates who arrived earlier were able to take part in a reception and BBQ which took place the evening before the conference started.

The Conference banquet was held in a classical Portuguese restaurant housed in an old winery.  There was excellent cuisine as well as good wines and towards the end, the delegates were entertained by a Fado ensemble.  Fado is a unique type of Portuguese music, melancholic and nostalgic, expressing deep feelings.  The music is also played with typical instruments, particularly the Portuguese guitar.  The delegates enjoyed the occasion and the ambience of an old Algarve village.

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 International Scientific Advisory Committee

The International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Conference met over dinner to discuss how the meeting was progressing.  It was agreed that the Conference ought to be reconvened in 2010 in view of its success.  Design and Nature is one of the most interdisciplinary of the WIT conferences, covering a wide range of disciplines and interests, focusing on the need to harmonize design and nature.  Different locations were discussed and suggested for further investigation by the WIT Conference Department.

 Publication of Papers


The proceedings of Design and Nature IV: Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering, 368pp (ISBN: 1-84564-120-7) are available in hard back from WIT Press priced at £121/US$242/€181.50. Orders can be placed by telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223, fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the WIT Press web site at:

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as volume 114 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at: