Unprofessional Biography

Public engagement is a critical component of modern society and allows the public to influence scientists. Outreach activities guide and inform scientists about which knowledge will provide future public benefit.

Musical Albums that I contributed to

Technically I’m not on this one but I played many of these songs live!
Love this tune.

Cover art that I made

Rubiks Planet – My blog of half baked thoughts and essays.


Can iPods Grow on Trees?

Nearly every component in a modern hi-tech device has a biological equivalent. For example: mitochondria serve as power supplies, DNA molecules store information and screens could be made from octopus camouflage systems. Biology is optimised to be sustainable at multiple levels, from the molecular to the planetary scale. By emulating biology in our own manufacturing, could we help develop a circular economy that efficiently recycles material at minimal energy cost?

For over ten years I have been privileged to present ever-developing variations of this talk to many audiences. It was even made into a short film for the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s Disruptive Innovation Festival.

Can Smartphones Grow On Trees? from Jonathan Howard on Vimeo.

Cambridge Science Festival 2016
Cheltenham Science Festival 2015
Manufacturing Engineering part II Tripos, Cambridge University, 2010 to 2015
ISSM Engineering Module, Cambridge University, 2010 to 2015
IOP Christmas Lecture, 2006,  Birmingham University
Worcestershire and Hereford IOP, 2006

Artists, film-makers, journalists and students have been inspired by the story of why biology is the way that it is. I argue that taking a leaf out of biology’s book may help us to learn how the molecular details of biology lead directly to the concept of a circular economy. By reverse engineering this system, can we help our global economy become sustainable?

Artists impression of an iPod Tree, David Greco 2015

Articles arising from this talk include: The MemoHow we Get to Next, and Circulate News. This work led directly to the publication of my first book: Brave Green World.



Member of faculty of Open-Labware Summer School, TReND, Ethiopia.

TReND is an NGO that fosters university level education on the African continent. I was privileged to be a member of staff at a two week course in Addis Ababa. I helped to teach twenty one students from all over Africa how to program and build their own hardware using simple electronics and 3D printing. By the end of the course the students had assembled and used their own 3D printer, which they could take with them back to their institutes.

The program was featured in the German national newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.


Institute for Manufacturing

The IfM is legendary for its hands on approach to presenting the latest advances in manufacturing to the public.

In 2010 I assisted members of the public in taking images of insects using an electron microscope. The resulting images have had an interesting life. One of them won runner-up in the annual engineering photography challenge and was presented in The Independent. Another was used as the cover for an album and more still formed the basis of a pod-cast from Cambridge University, which I narrated.

In 2011 I designed a butternut squash “transformer” to present the idea that molecular details can endow simple engineering structures with complex emergent properties. Below is a time lapse movie of a tensegrity structure alternating between two extreme states under the action of osmosis.


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