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Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute to pioneer R&D for UK’s £74 billion industry

© AWAYTOMARS, photo by Gleeson Paulino
  • Written byTash Payne
  • Published date 22 September 2021
© AWAYTOMARS, photo by Gleeson Paulino
A blue dress worn by a female model was designed using a co-creative and crowd-sourced fashion platform by © AWAYTOMARS, photo by Gleeson Paulino

University of the Arts London (UAL) announces the Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute (FTTI), directed by Professor Jane Harris.

The emergent Institute will build on the university’s pioneering research and development (R&D) in support of the UK’s multi-billion-pound industry through the Industry Strategy-funded Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) Creative R&D Partnership. Hosted by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, BFTT is a partnership between UAL, Loughborough University, University College London, Queen Mary University London, University of Leeds, University of Cambridge, and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute (FTTI) is the first of its kind to incorporate design, STEM, cultural anthropology and business practices. It will deliver sustainable innovation across the entire fashion, textiles and technology (FTT) value chain.

Fashion is estimated to contribute £35 billion to the British economy every year, while £74 billion+ is spent on wider apparel, clothing accessories, household textiles and carpets. This accounts for 890,000 people employed across the UK and £9 billion of export. The FTTI will bring academic excellence and industry expertise together to investigate the most pressing questions, to improve sustainability, drive innovation and address the industry’s currently limited agency, empowering businesses of all sizes to set the national and international R&D agenda.

The FTTI brings together established research centres and hubs, with specialist fields spanning design, STEM and humanities. It will employ a whole-systems approach to challenges including climate change, ethical and working practices, and the circular economy. The Institute’s combination of industry and academic expertise is a pioneering new model for academia, making it uniquely placed to deliver real-world solutions. Recent advances in chemical engineering and technology, such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, will be harnessed to drive a more sustainable future.

As we look to the future, and the UK’s economic recovery, we have a once in a generation opportunity to build an economy which addresses the urgent challenges of our times – from climate change to ethical working practices. The FTTI, building on the extraordinary R&D work of the BFTT, will bring together industry and academia to shape thinking and deliver sustainable solutions for meaningful change across the wide-ranging fashion, textiles and technology industry.

— James Purnell, President and Vice-Chancellor of UAL
The FTTI has long-standing academic and industry expertise, and forward-thinking transdisciplinary partnerships. It is uniquely placed to provide industry with specialist cross-sectoral academic and business support, and most importantly the agency to lead FTT innovation through R&D – helping to achieve economic recovery and growth using more sustainable methods.

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

The Institute will be led and defined by the FTT industry. It will build on the work of the BFTT Creative R&D Partnership, including its recent report, Mapping the UK Fashion, Textiles and Technology Ecosystem. The report is the first comprehensive insight into the UK FTT ecosystem and reveals key barriers to R&D. The Institute’s work will be rooted in this evidence and progress alongside future BFTT reports.

For the mature fashion and textiles markets to change it will take a big collaborative effort across the wide-ranging industry sectors. From educating consumers to shifting the dial on innovation at all stages of the process. This will involve research, advanced materials and improving skills across the board. It will require a combination of Humanities and STEM – exactly what the FTTI will deliver.

— - Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textiles Association

The Institute’s first collaboration has already been announced: New Landscapes: Fashion, Textiles and Technology (FTT) Catalyst R&D Grant Scheme in partnership with the British Council. This pilot programme offers collaborative grants to designers, design entrepreneurs, and businesses from UK and Official Development Assistance countries to support new ideas for a sustainable future.

As a world leader in FTT education, UAL is uniquely positioned to host the FTTI. Comprised of 6 prestigious Colleges and 4 pioneering Institutes, UAL has over 7,500 undergraduate, post graduate and research students from over 85 UG and PG courses in Fashion, Textiles and Technology-related subject fields. Courses span the design of physical product and materials, to specialist business, psychology, and cosmetic science practices. UAL has provided a celebrated, world-leading pipeline of talent for global brands such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Bethany Williams, Christopher Kane and Florence Adepoju of MDMFlow cosmetics.

The Institute will be physically based at UAL’s new London College of Fashion campus in Stratford, opening in 2023. Part of the East Bank partnership, FTTI will contribute to UAL’s placemaking and Knowledge Exchange objectives.

The FTTI provides an ideal portal and partnership for the joint pilot programme with the British Council. The scheme aims to nurture international cooperation around responsible and socially engaged fashion and adjacent industries across textiles and technology. This initiative will support new ideas shaping the future of sustainable fashion globally – in addition to building longer term initiatives with the Institute, and our East Bank partners leading up to our move to Stratford.

— Sevra Davis, Director for Architecture, Design and Fashion, British Council
I welcome the new FTTI – to be housed in the new London College of Fashion campus at East Bank by 2023. East Bank is an emerging powerhouse for innovation, creativity and learning on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – It is a unique collaboration between world-leading universities, businesses, arts and culture organisations, that open up opportunities for everyone who visits, lives and works in east London. Fashion and Textiles is a common thread, part of the history and ecology of the area, which the Institute’s world-leading Research and Knowledge Exchange will enhance.

— Paul Brickell, Executive Director for Regeneration and Community Partnerships, London Legacy Development Corporation

The Institute will also strengthen provision for larger-scale research initiatives, including partnerships across the AHRC Creative Industry Cluster Programme (CICP, 2018-23) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The space for the FTTI is where fashion and the circular economy, fashion and textiles ecology, and fashion and materials science meet. FTTI will act as an aggregator and amplifier, addressing global challenges including climate change, through knowledge exchange, innovation, supporting new R&D innovation and importantly FTT business growth. It’s a huge investment in the step change in applied R&D that UAL has achieved through the BFTT partnership, funded by AHRC through our Cluster Programme.

— Andrew Chitty, Challenge Director at the UKRI Audience of the Future & Creative Industry Cluster Programme
There is a huge role for the FTTI in enabling companies to use technology to improve the integrity of their supply chains. Innovation can excite and gather people around it. Importantly at this time in acknowledgement of challenges such as climate change and labour issues, the FTTI can help companies meet imperative goals and ambitions to be more sustainable.

— Roberto Battistoni, Business Development Lead at IBM

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