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Using biological models to improve innovation systems: The case of computer anti‐viral software

John Rice (Adelaide Graduate School of Business, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Nigel Martin (School of Business and Government, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 1 May 2007



A strong and fast‐cycle innovation system has been developed to counter the ongoing threat of computer viruses within computer systems employing vulnerable operating systems. Generally, however, the innovative applications that develop in response to each generation of computer virus can be seen as a reactive, rather than proactive, critical response. The paper seeks to present a critique of the innovation system that has emerged to combat computer viruses by comparing it with its natural system namesake, the human anti‐viral immune system. It is proposed that the relevance of this analogy extends beyond this case to innovation systems more generally.


This paper discusses the biological theory related to the human body's immune system and how immune systems might be mimicked in the development of security systems and anti‐virus software. The paper then outlines the biomimicry framework that can be used for scoping the development and features of the security systems and software, including the population of the framework segments. The implications of biomimetic approaches in the wider innovation management literature are discussed.


Some commercial security products that are undergoing evolutionary development and current research and development activities are used to augment the biomimetic development framework and explicate its use in practice. The paper has implications for the manner in which the objectives of innovation systems are defined. There is implicit criticism of linear models of innovation, that by their nature ignore the recursive and/or adaptive processes evident in natural systems.


This is the first paper, to the best of the authors' knowledge, that discusses the application of natural systems and biomimetics to broaden the scope of innovation process design, and link its findings back to the wider innovation literature.



Rice, J. and Martin, N. (2007), "Using biological models to improve innovation systems: The case of computer anti‐viral software", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 201-214.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited