The Biodesign Challenge aims to foster the first generation of biodesigners who use the life sciences as a tool to create and critique applications of biotechnology with students from a range of disciplines invited to explore the ethical implications of current and future biotechnological innovations.
It is grounded in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 (taking action to combat climate change) and provides an opportunity for Sheffield Hallam University students, one of only two universities in the UK to take part in the competition, to engage in work which could have real world impact and make a positive contribution society globally.
Previous winners include a project which aimed to encourage flies to become more efficient pollinators which raised more than $100,000 in capital funding and interest from Prince Charles and a project which used seafood shell and coffee ground waste to create a biodegradable textile similar to leather.
Art and design postgraduate students worked in cross disciplinary teams to prepare their projects, with input from teaching staff, researchers from Lab4Living, a trans-disciplinary research group, based on a collaborative community of researchers in design, healthcare and creative practices and invited external experts.
After an internal selection process, the project which will be presented at the Challenge is The Living Sponge, a dystopian futuristic fiction that uses living calcareous sponge properties to create an artificial living sponge that interacts with the external environment by collecting and purifying water.
They’ll join 52 teams from 20 countries who have spent their semesters developing ideas that bridge art, design, and biology to reimagine a more sustainable and equitable future.
Over 60 leading experts in academia, industry, and the arts will judge and award prizes at the annual Summit. This year’s sponsored prizes include the Barilla Prize for Regenerative Living Ecosystems and the Science Sandbox Prize for Public Engagement.
Summit speakers include Janina Jeff, geneticist and host of the podcast In Those Genes; Kathy High, artist, curator, and scholar of bioart; and Lisa Margonelli, author and senior editor of Issues in Science and Technology.
Hannah Morley, one of the design students who will be presenting the project said: "The Biodesign Challenge was such a potential and transformative opportunity for us, as a team; and a challenge in itself.
“We hope The Living Sponge can uniquely help address global issues or reverse biodiversity loss with newly minted design innovation, relating to the damaging effects climate change has had on the planet regarding water scarcity."
Subject Group Leader for postgraduate Art and Design, Dr Eve Stirling said: “The students have found it challenging to work as interdisciplinary teams on a project exploring scientific and more speculative themes, but attendance has been excellent and they are rising to the challenge.”
Daniel Grushkin, founder and Executive Director of Biodesign Challenge said: “To serve society as an entirety, science and technology need to be equally accessible to everyone at each stage of creation. I’m looking forward to this year’s Summit dialogues around what we want from our technologies,”
While this year’s event will be held online, previous summits have taken place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Find out more about the Living Sponge