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The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology awards grants to SMEs for sustainable innovation

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: courtesy of Dash and Miller

The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) research and development programme have awarded a further 1.1 million pounds to 13 small-to-medium-sized enterprises that place sustainability, innovation and social purpose at the heart of their business model.

This latest injection of funds follows an initial 1.2 million pound investment to 10 of the UK’s leading SMEs in 2020, and 500,000 pounds of collaborative research funding across three additional BFTT projects to approximately 2.8 million pounds across 35 SMEs, with the creation of at least 20 new jobs.

The new 1.1 million pounds of funding to pioneer sustainable and innovation developments has been awarded to SMEs covering a range of subsectors and research and development areas including surface finishing processes and natural dyeing, embedded use of traceable raw materials, high-value recycling of fashion and textile industry waste, sensing technologies for healthcare, bio-materials, non-woven textiles, on-shoring of state-of-the-art manufacturing, novel digital solutions and sustainable chemical treatments of fabrics.

The companies receiving grants are Dash and Miller and Jessica Garvey Birch (partnership), Grady and Robinson and Phoebe English (partnership), Iinouiio, Keracol and Bulmer and Lumb (partnership), Kirsty McDougall, Nurvv, PlanetCare, Project Plan B, Virustatic and William Clark and Sons.

Image: courtesy of William Clark and Sons

Each company was selected from more than 140 applications and will receive a tailored package of funding combined with academic expertise and strategic business support, explains BFTT. All projects will launch in autumn 2021 for twelve to fifteen months.

Nikki Matthews, creative research and development programme manager, said: “We are delighted to have 13 fantastic companies joining us in this R&D Programme. It will provide participants with multi-disciplinary and multi sector expertise, to accelerate the innovation of sustainable business models, processes and products. From the Programme’s first cohort funded in 2020, we have seen how SMEs can be incredibly agile and creative, and the real difference that focused R&D can make to the businesses we work with.”

BFTT funding for British SMEs hits 2.8 million pounds to drive sustainable innovation

Key projects from the latest round of funding include William Clark and Sons, Ireland’s oldest surviving linen mill founded in 1736, which are exploring eco and sustainable products that will add inherent stain-resistant properties to the historic process of beetling, a mechanical process involving the pounding of linen to develop a beautiful, character sheen.

Image: courtesy of Dash and Miller

There will also be a partnership project from woven textile studio Dash and Miller working with Jessica Garvey Birch, a digital 3D design and development consultant on the Virtual Mill to develop a circular woven fabric from the fibre-up to test, refine, and showcase online. This fabric will then be presented to the market as a customisable woven textile via the virtual platform, with a single digital sample that can be collaborated online to minimise waste.

Grady and Robinson aim to supply brands and designers with vegetable-tanned and sustainably finished leather that is traceable to animals raised on pasture at ecological farms in the UK in partnership with British emerging designer Phoebe English, while Iinouiio, a textile recycling business is looking to rejuvenate and develop British wool textile recycling to create new yarns for the global market.

Kirsty McDougall, who provides specialist textile development and consultancy for high value and couture clients in the fashion and textiles industries, will be focusing on establishing a dedicated textile research lab that focuses on the ongoing development of highly crafted recycled textiles made from fashion industry waste fabric, which are market relevant and desirable at a range of price points.

Image: courtesy of Kirsty McDougall

While Project Plan B, a B2B clothing company that designs, manufactures and recycles clothing at the end of life to provide circularity in garment development, is designing and developing a full range of “designed to be recycled” clothing for the retail, hospitality outdoor and sports sectors.

Professor Jane Harris, BFTT programme director, added: “Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are critical to the economy and critical to the creative sector in particular, making up over 95% of creative businesses in the UK. The BFTT R&D Programme seeks to highlight the value and impact SMEs can have in our sector and on the economy, when provided with the right type of financial support and research expertise.”

New textile manufacturing facilities set up in the UK following BFTT funding

Since the first round of awards was made to ten fashion and textiles businesses last year, three new manufacturing facilities and physical services have been set up in the UK.

Anna Glover has created a research and development service hub that will provide printing services for industry and a research and development service and resource for students, and Blackhorse Lane Atelier is to open the first UK based denim wash lab in early 2022 allowing brands to offer a more sustainable product.

In addition, London-based creative weaving company Tibor has set up a micro-mill service for other small businesses, providing small-scale manufacturing for both Jacquard and Dobby weaving and producing sustainable textiles on a commission basis. The Mill will be a resource for students and graduates to visit as well as employing graduates/apprentices.

The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) is a five-year industry-led project that focuses on delivering innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain. It is part of the AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP), funded by the UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. BFTT is hosted by University of the Arts London (UAL), in partnership with: Loughborough University; University College London (UCL); Queen Mary University London (QMUL); University of Leeds; University of Cambridge and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

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