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The Textile Institute at 100 bright legacy, smart future

Manchester weather at its very wettest failed to dampen the spirits of attendees from around the world at the Textile Institute Centenary Conference held here from November 2-4th. The venue was Manchesters Midland Hotel, where the Institute was inaugurated a century ago in a notable period in which Rolls also met Royce to kick-start the British automotive industry at the same location, and in the year that Manchester United played its first football match. I

5th November 2010

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Manchester

Sports/​Outdoor, Protective, Medical/Hygiene, Clothing/​Footwear, Transport/​Aerospace, Sustainable, Interiors, Construction, Civil Engineering, Industrial, Packaging, Agriculture

Manchester architecture - old and newManchester weather at its very wettest failed to dampen the spirits of attendees from around the world at the Textile Institute Centenary Conference held here from November 2-4th.

The venue was Manchester’s Midland Hotel, where the Institute was inaugurated a century ago – in a notable period in which Rolls also met Royce to kick-start the British automotive industry at the same location, and in the year that Manchester United played its first football match.

In speaking of Manchester’s legacy of innovation, the city’s Lord Mayor, Mark Hackett, pointed out that it now had more Nobel Prize winners than either Oxford or Cambridge – the latest being Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov this year for their discovery of graphene. Mr Hackett added that the rain was also doubtless a deciding factor in the domination of the region’s cotton industry...

Looking very much to the future, was immediate past TI president Professor Xia-ming Tao, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who spoke of the vast potential of ‘smart fabrics’ and the integration of textiles and electronics – an industry already estimated to be worth more than $1 billion annually, and with the overall potential to be worth $1 trillion.

Electronics, she pointed out, had progressed from being ‘block’, to now being ‘embedded’ and was moving rapidly to the next stage of being fibre-based in the key areas of:

  • Interface technologies (sensors and actuators)
  • Communication technologies
  • Data management technologies
  • Integrated circuits, and
  • Connects

This progression, she predicted, would be as significant as anything achieved in the past century.

In a lively and far-reaching presentation, Lord Mervyn Davies, former Minister for Trade, Investment and Small Business, said there was an increasing demand, especially from young people, for ‘aspirational new lifestyle brands’ and the UK’s industries had got to make sure they delivered them.

“The textile industry has many SMEs which are the lifeblood of our economy, but the reality is that one hundred years ago, there were many high net worth individuals who were financing new approaches of all kinds and somehow we have got to get back to that.”

Young people don’t necessarily need degrees, he added, and there is a much greater need for technical skills.

“We have to get back to basics and accept that we are in competition and we really do need a larger base of technical expertise. It’s time for a radical rethink.”

The fourth keynote speaker, Ashroff Omar, CEO of Brandix made the case for a number of $500 million companies taking advantage of the now very fragmented apparel industry. These, he said, could exploit their scale, modern technology and substantial R&D resources to come up with products capable of dominating certain markets.

“While it is tough, the apparel industry could be the best to be in, and I believe there is now an unparalleled opportunity to be grabbed.”

Andy Rubin, meanwhile, CEO of the conference’s main sponsor Pentland Group, spoke of his company’s ‘Four P’s of Sustainability’ – Policies, Product, Production and Partnerships.

“Maybe we are now moving away from the era when companies were solely concerned with shareholder profit and there is now a sense of simply wanting to do the right thing” he suggested. “We believe in being performance driven and value led, but we need to establish the rules of the game if we are not to be at a disadvantage to companies who don’t care.”

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