UBD hosts an International Workshop on Biodiversity and Bioinspiration

Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in collaboration with Virginia Tech marked another milestone by launching an international workshop that explores the intersection of bioinspired engineering and biodiversity. The event was held at the Chancellor’s Hall, Universiti Brunei Darussalam on Monday, 9 January 2022.

The event was graced by the Guest of Honour, Yang Mulia Dr Joyce Teo Siew Yean, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Global Affairs, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. In attendance were 50 scientists and accomplished researchers from UBD, researchers from the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), the United States Navy, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), US universities include Virginia Tech, Arizona State, City University of New York, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins, University of Akron, and the Virginia State; participating universities from other Asian countries and the UK included Hiroshima University in Japan, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), Krea University, India, the National University of Singapore, Prince Songkla University, Thailand, as well as the University of Bristol, the University of Malaysia Sarawak and the University of Science, Malaysia. Also presented at the event are the UBD senior management, staff, students from UBD, and representatives from the industry sectors.

Bioinspiration is a rapidly growing area at the intersection of engineering and the life sciences that seeks to use insights from a wide range of biological systems, such as plants, animals, or entire ecosystems, to develop technical solutions. An example is slippery surfaces, e.g., for the lining of food packaging, that pitcher plants have inspired.

The growing importance of bioinspiration, especially for designing complex systems that can meet current and future multi-faceted technological challenges, makes the world’s biodiversity a potential natural resource for technical innovation. As how coal and iron ore drove the manufacturing economy of the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, biodiversity has the similar potential to drive the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

The workshop that is ongoing from 9th to 13th January 2022 seeks to come up with a road map for the development of this promising field. The Faculty of Science (FOS), the Faculty of Integrated Technologies (FIT), the School of Digital Science (SDS) and the Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER) in collaboration with Virginia Tech (VT) co-organised the workshop. VT is a top-tier engineering university in the USA and a key partner for developing bioinspired science and technology with UBD. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Naval Research Global (ONRG) of the United States sponsor the international researchers participating in this workshop.

The Guest of Honour welcomed all and officially inaugurated the UBD-VT international collaboration. In sition as the country her welcoming remarks, she highlighted on Brunei’s rich biodiversity and unique with the largest biodiversity per unit area in the world as well as the importance of international collaboration to utilise this resource for technological insight. This collaboration is also timely to leverage on technological innovation to work for sustainable development.

Professor Dr Eva Kanso, Program Director at the National Science Foundation, USA, emphasized the importance of bioinspired engineering, an interdisciplinary area that has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Dr. Hao Nguyen, Science Director, Autonomy and. Unmanned Systems, Asia/Pacific, ONR Global put the role of bioinspiration into the context of autonomous systems. Professor Dr Jaehung Han, an Executive Director of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) Development Foundation, described the role of bioinspiration in KAIST’s effort to develop transformative technologies, especially for aerospace applications. For the National University of Singapore NUS), Professor Dr Gregory Chirikjian gave insights into the role of bioinspiration in robotics. Dr Christin Murphy, Branch Head at the naval undersea research center division at Newport, one of the premier research centers of the United States Navy, shared the importance of bioinspiration for marine exploration. The week-long workshop will combine intense working groups with field trips to see Brunei’s biodiversity firsthand under UBD biodiversity experts led by Dr Ulmar Grafe, a professor with UBD’s Faculty of Science.

Professor Dr Rolf Mueller, Raymond E. & Shirley B. Lynn, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech and the Director of the Bioinspired Science & Technology Center, Virginia Tech concluded the opening session with a talk that explored the science at the intersection of biodiversity and bioinspiration, as well as its societal context and potential impact.

UBD and VT signed an MOU in 2019 and have since been working on several academic and collaborative research areas. As part of the research collaboration, UBD has been hosting Fulbright Professors from VT and students from various American universities such as VT, Brown University, University of Maryland, Duke University, Texas A&M University and the University of Buffalo for their research internship in UBD.This will be further extended to the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST).

UBD is at the forefront of technological innovation, empowered by world-class links and expertise. The research collaboration has positioned UBD to complement the country’s digital economy initiatives to protect and preserve the region’s biodiversity using the forefront technology of engineering.

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