photo of student textile work and woven fabric

Loughborough to collaborate on multi-million pound Creative R&D Partnership focused on fashion and textile industry

Loughborough University is to be a major partner on one of 10 game-changing R&D partnerships, awarded as part of the Government’s investment in the UK’s creative industries.

Over the next five years, the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s(AHRC) Creative Industries Clusters Programme will reposition the creative industries as vital to UK economic growth and resilience, and provide direct links into shaping Government policy.

Led by University of the Arts, London (UAL), The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) Creative R&D Partnership is one of nine clusters and one policy and evidence centre to be funded under the multi-million pound Creative Industries Clusters Programme.

The programme forms part of the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund initiative, which brings together leading research and business to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges.

The five-year industry-led programme will focus on delivering innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain, with special attention given to positioning industry as agents of new technology and materials development.

The BFTT Partnership includes work streams dedicated to developing an evidence base; supporting SMEs in engaging in high-value collaborative R&D; sustainable business practice; reimagining retail and consumer experiences; tackling the industry reliance on synthetic materials; developing new sustainable materials and building critical mass in new modes of making and manufacturing for fashion and textiles.

It is led by Professor Graeme Evans, University of the Arts London (UAL), with Co-Directors Professor Jane Harris, London College of Fashion, UAL, Professor Tracy Bhamra, Loughborough University, Professor Susanne Kuechler, UCL and in collaboration with three other HEIs: University of Cambridge, University of Leeds and Queen Mary University London.

Key industry partners include the Victoria and Albert Museum, world-leading luxury brands, online retail and emergent design companies of the future as well as over 40 Fashion, Textiles and Technology (FTT) businesses, trade associations and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The project will enable a wide range of emergent FTT businesses – which represent 80% of the UK’s high-value FTT sector – to be agents for R&D innovation, business growth and to respond to significant challenges in consumer behaviour, e-commerce, the environment, novel manufacturing and production processes.

Professor Tracy Bhamra, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Project Co-Director at Loughborough University, said: “This is an exciting project that draws on Loughborough’s research strengths and enterprise ethos. We will be working closely with a range of academic and industry partners to enable innovation in the fashion and textile sector both within the East Midlands and across the UK working to enhance the industry’s competitiveness.”

Textile innovation in the UK is ranked third in the world and first in Europe, with the UK currently advancing developments in new, environmentally sustainable materials and production technologies.

The project exploits the UK industry’s considerable market advantage and design influence and responds to emerging challenges to sustain and accelerate the creative economy of the FTT sector – including an increasingly ethically-sensitive market, real-terms resource cost increases and evolving environmental legislation. To tackle these challenges, the project partnership draws upon transdisciplinary research expertise in design, computer science, chemistry, materials engineering, economics, management, anthropology and manufacturing.

Professor Steve Rothberg, Loughborough’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research commented: “We’ll bring our particular research strengths in textiles, design and manufacturing technology to this outstanding partnership, which I’m delighted we’re a part of.”

It is intended that the project will foster a new, creative business culture in which fashion, textile and technology businesses – from SMEs to multinational companies – can use R&D as a mechanism for growth. The project will also engage with business and Government to develop a pipeline of talent to staff the FTT businesses of the future, tapping into the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) agenda which aims to provide young people with the creative skills needed to support the sector.