What is LINKAGE?


LINKAGE is a biomimetic tool based on the results of research studies conducted by the Laboratory of Product Design and Innovation (LCPI) of Les Arts et Métiers (ENSAM) in Paris, France. The tool represents the embodiment of nine guidelines defined as a common cognitive framework of reference for engineers and biologists to describe, think about, solve problems and present solutions together [Graeff et al., 2020)]:

  • Guideline 1: Consider subjective elements as embedded in external constraints.
  • Guideline 2: Combine prescriptive and descriptive approaches.
  • Guideline 3: Expose cognitive links to bridge functional, structural, material and behavioral abstracted concepts.
  • Guideline 4: Present problems and solutions within their spatio-temporal contexts.
  • Guideline 5: Dedicate spaces for both product design and knowledge gathering while supporting their synergetic contributions.
  • Guideline 6: Consider problem/solution dynamics through a state-based evolution.
  • Guideline 7: Model systems through nested structures.
  • Guideline 8: Be specific on forms.
  • Guideline 9: Support a systemic standpoint.

In practice, LINKAGE guides design teams during two key steps of the biomimetic process, step 2 and 6. These steps require the identification, gathering, structuring and generic formalization of information (see biomimetic process). Thanks to its transdisciplinary framework of reference, the tool can be used to model both technical and biological system. Doing so, it aims at supporting teams communication and increasing their ability to implement a biomimetic innovation strategy.

Several users can be invited to join a shared project online, making LINKAGE a collaborative working platform that can be associated with other biomimetic tools. Its theoretical foundations and user-friendly interface allow teams to store, organize and present information in a shared conceptual framework specifically designed for each project.

LINKAGE can also be used as a knowledge management tool since it allows design teams to store past projects and to easily search keywords from them thanks to an internal search engine. As biomimetics is a resources-consuming innovative strategy, good practices underlined it should be implemented with a knowledge management strategy in order to be efficient in the long run.

LINKAGE is also used for engineering design research purposes. There is a fundamental difficulty for engineering design researchers to access experimental data. Only few professionals agree to spend time for biomimetic experimental purposes, and so to invest in methodological research. Since the approach isn’t standardized yet, it is only fair that they consider too risky to invest in biomimetics. However, this leads to a vicious circle where, on one side, companies don’t want to take the risk of investing in biomimetics and, on the other side, biomimetic methodological researches can’t progress without investments and experimental (and so risky) projects to test their hypotheses. In that context, LINKAGE is an open access design tools for practitioners to use in exchange for the gathering of usage data for scientific purposes only (see What about my data?).

Current version
LINKAGE version 1.3 (September 2020)

When to use LINKAGE?

LINKAGE is designed to be used after the initial step of the biomimetic process, the design problem analysis and definition. From the output of this step (functional analysis, users’ needs, strategic axes, etc.) a LINKAGE project can be created to gather and structure information about a technical system of interest. This model will lead the team to perform the 2nd step of the biomimetic process.

The current version of the tool, doesn't encompass the 3rd, 4th or 5th steps which should then be performed through pre-existing biomimetic tools. It is our final objective to make available a version of LINKAGE allowing to perform the entire process.

Once a biological model of interest is identified as relevant (5th step), the identification, gathering and structuring of related data appear fundamental to allow a deep understanding of the biological strategy for it to be turned into design guidelines (6th step).
Through its ability to formalize biological model, LINKAGE supports this structured gathering of information and the increase of team’s biological knowledge. It also creates spaces for each specific teammate to express herself/himself with the aim of implementing a synergetic interdisciplinary functioning.

Thanks to LINKAGE biological model’s output, biological strategies are abstracted into design guidelines to be projected into technological concepts during creativity steps.

What do I need to use LINKAGE?

LINKAGE is an online working platform allowing several users to work on shared project.

As a result, users will need an internet connection to access LINKAGE. The tool is optimized for Google Chrome and should be used full screen to allow all help buttons and pop-ups to open as expected.

The tool allows teams to identify, gather and structure information. Has a result, sources of information appear as another requirement, LINKAGE isn’t a search engine per se, users have to build their models before searching within them.

An interdisciplinary biomimetic design team (engineers, designers, biomimetician, biologists, etc.) is the optimal team for a biomimetic project and so to operate LINKAGE.

Finally, since intermediary outputs of the biomimetic design process are used as LINKAGE's inputs, knowledge on the biomimetic processes and tools appear as an asset for the use of LINKAGE. Information and links towards scientific literature on these subjects are available on the platform (see Lab's research axes on biomimetics) and so can be used to learn about the methodological context before using the tool.

What are LINKAGE outputs?

Its first output is the establishment of a shared conceptual framework for each project, supporting teams' communication.

Its second output is the understanding of systems based on the establishement of models presenting problems or solutions, leading teams to abstract technological problems and biological solutions.

Finally, from the recap page, team can download a PDF report presenting all abstracted elements, structures information, references, images, and the generated graphical representations.

How to use LINKAGE?
  1. First create a new project and invite your teammates.
  2. Choose whether you want to formalize a technological or biological model.
  3. Follow the tool's instruction, to generate the technological and biological models.
  4. Based on the built model, the tool then guides the team during the sorting and the conceptual formalization of key elements into abstracted guidelines.
  5. Download your report and move on to the next step of the biomimetic process.

N.B.: Do not hesitate to search for the Information button that are available on each page of the tool, they will provide you with tips and support.

For precise information on the various functionalities and steps included in the formulation of the LINKAGE models, please see the USER GUIDE section.

Is LINKAGE compatible with other biomimetic tools?

Of course, LINKAGE can, and should, be associated with other biomimetic tools. Again, so far, LINKAGE is a working platform guiding users on the 2 and 6th steps. The other steps should then be performed with additional tools.

Since LINKAGE has been design based on the TPIB process, it is compatible with inputs and outputs of other steps of this process and so with other biomimetic tools.

Moreover, has LINKAGE is also a tool to link science and practice, it allows the addition of scientific references through a Mendeley Plug-in and the uploading of PDF and images to illustrate your projects.

LINKAGE is based on the use of natural language to ensure easy communication without having to train in any specific formalized language. However, parallels can be drawn between pre-existing approaches focusing on the 2 and 6th steps (they are most of the time specified in the "help buttons"). As a result, manual data importation appears feasible, but such numeric feature hasn’t been implemented so far.

How much does LINKAGE cost?

Nothing, LINKAGE is free.

It is an open access tool, designed to support the spreading of biomimetics by improving the efficiency of biomimetic teams.

In return for this free access to LINKAGE, users have to consent on allowing their usage data to be collected and analyzed for academic purposes only (see What about my data?).

What about my data?

When you create an account, you are required to consent to your data being used to analyze the platform performance, improve its features and for scientific purposes (statistical analysis, scientific publication, etc.).

In case of scientific communication involving your data (publication, conferences, etc.), data will always be anonymized and aggregated.

You can delete permanently your data at any time by emailing us at [email protected]

For more information about the use of your data, see LINKAGE Terms of service.

Can I share my project with other people?

Yes, LINKAGE is a collaborative tool and you can ask your entire design team to join a project.

To do so, you can either add users through the section “my biomimetic design team” in each project.In this case, these users will have access to the whole project.

Or, you can add users through the “Add a new contributor” button in the top left corner of each model. These users will only have access to the model you invited them in, not the entire project.

What about copyrights?

The entire website of LINKAGE, including its content and presentation, is a work protected by International and French copyright laws.

The ownership, as well as its content and elements, is the exclusive property of LCPI and/or the ENSAM.

In order for this tool to remain free and scientifically relevant, the content of the website is submitted to a Creative Common License:

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) This license allows others to download any elements of LINKAGE website and share them with others as long as they credit us, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

To cite this work, please use the scientific publication presenting the tool:
Graeff, E.; Maranzana, N.; Aoussat, A. LINKAGE, a tool to support interdisciplinary biomimetic design teams, 2021

For any questions, constructive critisisms, remarks or research projects, please contact us at [email protected]

Any failure to comply with these terms and conditions or any misuse will be the subject of appropriate legal action.