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Fashion Textiles and Technology Institute colleagues are awardees in UKRI’s £6 million circular fashion initiative to drive sustainability in fashion

  • Written byKatie Moss
  • Published date 15 August 2023
Kira Issar, 2023.

Colleagues from University of the Arts London’s Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute have become awardees in UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) £6 million circular fashion initiative to drive sustainability in fashion.

The investment announced this week by UKRI will create three national networks of researchers to build knowledge and drive more sustainable practices across Fashion and Textiles.

The programme will help to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global fashion industry, through informing key areas such as sustainable manufacturing, circular business models, recycling infrastructure, and novel technologies. Researchers will seek to establish standardised and agreed data that will inform influential decisions within the industry.

The fashion and textile industry is estimated to be worth £21 billion to the UK economy, and provides more than half a million jobs. But globally, it is estimated the sector causes 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of freshwater pollution. Fashion uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined, yet the complexity and reach of the industry means that the true impact on the environment is not fully understood.

With UK fashion consumption continuing to rise, there is a pressing need to develop strategies for sustainable transformation, which means first establishing a clear picture of the industry's full environmental impacts.

This investment, called NetworkPlus (part of the UKRI’s £15 million Circular Fashion Programme) will bring together three complimentary cross-disciplinary teams of researchers, working in partnership with industry experts and other stakeholders, will build a bank of data and knowledge, which will support the sector in adopting sustainable circular business models.

UAL’s Professor Jane Harris, Professor Kate Goldsworthy and Professor Mahbubul Hassan are Co-Investigators across two out of the three national NetworkPlus awards, also aligning with partners from the UAL Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology, Creative R&D Partnership.

The Future Fibres Network+ consortium led by the University of Exeter, will aim to integrate environmental sciences into the fashion and textile sector - promoting systematic, circular, and sustainable practices. By creating a knowledge repository, fostering a cross-disciplinary community, and focussing in education and skills, the project build a bank of expertise and methodologies to address environmental challenges in the industry. The consortium will break down silos and provide the scientific evidence needed for a circular and sustainable future in the UK's fashion and textiles industry.

The Back to Baselines in Circular Fashion & Textiles Network+ consortium led by the University of Leeds, will seek to establish comprehensive environmental and design standards for the UK's fashion and textile industry. This will involve addressing data gaps in key areas, and ultimately presenting a robust, accurate and honest picture of the current 'baseline' position of the industry will be presented, from which the best strategy to meet Net Zero and other mandated targets can be based.

The team are delighted to be participating in these two Networks over the next two years – furthering the UAL’s position at the forefront of fashion innovation. The global fashion and textiles industry, with which the UK intersects, is extremely complex. The principal tenet of Circular Economy (CE) is to achieve a wider apparel and textiles industry with reduced absolute use of resources, by designing products, materials and process systems that allow retention of materials for future use. The key aim is to achieve the net-zero targets and critically the reduction of other environmental impacts, which the three UKRI funded complimentary national networks will go some way to support.

— Professor Jane Harris, Director of the Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute