What biological evolution teaches about sustainable engineering innovation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


  • Jurgen Poesche
  • Oleg Shipin
  • Yang Liu
  • Donald Huisingh
  • Ilkka Kauranen

Research units

  • Asian Institute of Technology
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Linköping University
  • University of Vaasa


The objective of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the dynamics of engineering innovation by building a novel, extensive metaphor between engineering innovation and biological evolution. In a metaphor, a phrase literally denoting one kind of idea is used in place of another in order to suggest an analogy between them. In this metaphor, the insights gleaned from biological evolution were applied to engineering innovation. Biological evolution and engineering innovation are similar in that both exhibit creative destruction as evidenced by Darwin and Schumpeter. In the research analyses, special attention is given to the current multipolar world, with the poles consisting of societies based on different cultural traditions and to the emerging renaissance of decentralized production and its current iteration, Co-Engaging Production. The metaphor used in this paper challenges and even contradicts conventionally explicit and embedded beliefs in six ways. First, the dominance of Occidental science and engineering cannot be expected to last indefinitely. Second, the current dominance of Occidental science and engineering can have detrimental effects on engineering innovation. Third, free trade leads to inefficiency. Fourth, successful engineering innovation requires societal legitimacy and environmental conformity. Fifth, human cognition forms the basis of multipolar types of science and engineering. Sixth, past and current dominance reduces absorptive capacity in the Occidental.


Original languageEnglish
Article number118267
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Biological evolution, Cognition Engineering innovation, Legitimacy, Metaphor, Sustainability

ID: 36761413