Textile Innovation Report Points to a Digital Revolution

By November 18, 2016

The next 10 years of Europe's textile and clothing industry will be driven by high-performance materials, digitized manufacturing methods, circular economies, and high-value added solutions for attractive growth markets.

These are the conclusions reached by the European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing in its newly released "Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda" (SIRA). 

This report is the second of its kind – a collaborative effort between hundreds of experts across Europe intended to chart a course for sustainability and growth in textile research and innovation. The first such publishing from Textile ETP came out 10 years ago, and accurately laid out the coming industry evolution toward higher value added products in the face of stiffening global competition.

This new SIRA doc outlines four different core innovation themes that are expected to push textile research forward over the next decade.

The first is an increase in smart, high-performance fibers and materials, including multifunctional surfaces as well as "e-textiles." Also known as smart fabrics, these high-tech garments enable the embedding of digital and electronic components. If you haven't seen them yet, you probably will soon.

Second on the list is the advancement of digitization in manufacturing, value chains and business models. This will involve utilizing new technologies, such as virtual 3D prototyping and deeper personalization, to add efficiency.

The third innovation theme may be the most critical to sustainability and conservation. Circular economy is all about making more with less. The initiatives highlighted here include reusing materials, finding substitutes for hazardous chemicals and processes, and incorporating biorefinery concepts to uncover new fiber sources.

Finally, the SIRA report's fourth section focuses on finding ways to proactively tap into high-potential growth markets. This is all about recognizing the most significant opportunities in the apparel sector and capitalizing. Among the areas specified by Textile ETP are solutions for health, sports, personal protection, high-efficiency buildings, lightweight transport systems and functional fashion.

At a higher level, the researchers concluded that the biggest long-term game-changer for the European textile and clothing sector would be generating synthetic equivalents of natural fibers such as cotton, wool and silk. Presently, the continent is almost completely dependent on sourcing these materials from other parts of the globe.

However, that breakthrough is a long way out, identified by Textile EPT as a "2025 and beyond" consideration. In the meantime, the industry must continue to implement new technologies and cutting-edge techniques to improve quality while lowering production costs. That means closely examining the entire supply chain for opportunities to become more efficient and transparent with the help of digital solutions.

Although SIRA's scope is confined to the European market, the trends and overarching vision within can be applied to the textile and clothing industry worldwide. Ultimately, this exhaustively comprehensive document paints a bright future with emerging tech innovations changing many established paradigms.

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