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New report highlights opportunities for next-gen sustainable materials

By Simone Preuss


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White Space Analysis 2021. The Next-gen Materials Industry / The Material Innovation Initiative and The Mills Fabrica

A new report titled “White Space Analysis 2021” by The Material Innovation Initiative (MII) - an accelerator of the development of next generation sustainable materials for the fashion, automotive and home goods industries - and investor and ecosystem builder The Mills Fabrica has identified next-gen materials that are set to follow alternative proteins in popularity and profitability, particularly when it comes to opportunities for animal-free, sustainable leather, down, wool, silk, fur and exotic skins.

Next-gen down, wool, silk, fur and exotic skins alternatives provide profitable opportunities

“We use the term white space to refer not only to areas without current competition, but also to new technology and gaps in existing markets. We identify seven areas with significant opportunities for innovation in the next- gen material industry, broadly defined. Our goal is to direct interests, attention, and resources to innovate for the benefit of accelerating the entire next-gen materials industry,” states the first-of-its-kind report.

It also found that the most significant white spaces are in materials other than leather as approximately two-thirds of current players are producing next-gen leather. This leaves silk, wool, down, fur and exotic skins with limited innovation efforts so far, providing many profitable opportunities, especially in fur and silk.

State of the Next-Gen Material Industry (June 2021) / The Material Innovation Initiative

Bio-based synthetic fibres are another profitable area

But the analysis also looked at what would make a material 100 percent sustainable and analysed bio-based resins, coatings, binders, dyes and finishes in this context. AnoNther area with lots of promise are sustainable synthetics - a target for the entire textile industry, which currently relies heavily on polyester. Bio-based synthetic fibres could help reduce the reliance on petrochemical derivatives and biodegradable fibres enable alternative pathways at the end of a product’s life.

“Our goal is to show this nascent industry’s underserved technological areas where future work will make a big impact,” says MII’s chief science officer Sydney Gladman. “These white spaces do not focus on a single product or market, but instead highlight opportunities that will produce a ripple effect across the entire next-gen materials industry and beyond.”

The Mills Fabrica notes that – like the alternative protein industry a decade ago, where both MII’s co-founders, Nicole Rawling and Stephanie Downs, come from – the next-gen materials industry is replete with untapped opportunities. Innovators and investors are now in a position to start the next-gen material versions of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, reaping the rewards of future billion-dollar companies. “Stephanie and I have seen this sort of industry-wide change happen before, and today’s materials industry looks very familiar to us,” confirms MII CEO Nicole Rawling.

“We are delighted to join hands with The Material Innovation Initiative to discuss the untapped potential of the next-gen materials. As consumers’ awareness of sustainability continues to increase, it’s the right time to keep the traction by introducing these material innovations to the wider community,” says Angus Tsang, Research from The Mills Fabrica.

Material Innovation Initiative
Sustainable Textile Innovations
The Mills Fabrica