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 [Graeff et al., 2021]. 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)