Emily Kennedy


Emily is a born and bred Bostonian and bio-enthusiast. Her fascination with the living world stems from childhood camping trips to New Hampshire’s White Mountains where she and her sisters would wade glassy streams and net tadpoles, hunt for curiously-shaped leaves, and picnic with chipmunks. As an adult, Emily has built a career around her love of all life, becoming a bioinspired inventor. She is a PhD Candidate in Integrated Bioscience at the University of Akron (Akron, OH) with a specialty focus in biomimicry. Biomimicry – from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate – is technical emulation of biological forms, processes, patterns, and systems. This innovation approach is based on the belief that natural selection favors high-performance, resource-efficient survival strategies—strategies that can be copied to address technical challenges. Hook-and-loop fasteners, like those manufactured by Velcro Industries, are one well-known example of biomimicry; the hook-and-loop fastening system was inspired by observation of how the hooked extremities of burrs cling to matted animal fur and woven clothing fibers.

Emily’s graduate studies in biomimicry are sponsored by GOJO Industries, the inventor of PURELL® Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer.  Emily works part-time in the GOJO R&D department, training innovators to explore biology as a source of creative inspiration. She has led a number of successful biomimicry initiatives at GOJO, including innovation of energy-efficient soap/sanitizer dispensers inspired by how squid propel through water, versatile dispenser brackets inspired by roosting bats, and topical treatments inspired by abrasion-resistant, sand-dwelling reptiles.

Emily also co-founded and serves as CEO of Hedgemon, LLC. Hedgemon is a Cleveland-based tech startup developing hedgehog-inspired impact protection technology. Wild hedgehogs are agile climbers, scaling trees to heights exceeding 30 feet while foraging insects. When a hedgehog needs to descend from an above ground perch quickly–to escape a predatory owl, for example–it will curl into a spikey ball and drop to the ground. Upon high speed impact, the hedgehog scurries away unfazed because the spines (aka quills) projecting from its pelt absorb shock, preventing injury. Hedgemon is adapting principles of the hedgehog model to create a structured material that absorbs repeated blows via elastic deformation. The company’s initial target application is an impact-resistant football helmet liner to reduce incidence of concussion.

Emily holds a BA in International Relations (Minor: Environmental Studies) from Colgate University (Hamilton, NY). She is frequently invited to speak at corporate seminars and high profile public events, including a recent TEDx.