Biology presents us with answers to design problems that we suspect would be very useful if only we could implement them successfully. We use the Russian theory of problem solving - TRIZ - in a novel way to provide a system for analysis and technology transfer. The analysis shows that whereas technology uses energy as the main means of solving technical problems, biology uses information and structure. Biology is also strongly hierarchical. The suggestion is that smart technology in hierarchical structures can help us to design much more efficient technology. TRIZ also suggests that biological design is autonomous and can be defined by the prefix "self-" with any function. This autonomy extends to the control system, so that the sensor is commonly also the actuator, resulting in simpler systems and greater reliability.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.