“New Textiles. Research and innovation in the textile-clothing-technical textile industry” was the title chosen for the Information Day hosted this week in Brussels by AITEX. A whole day of conferences and scientific roundtables discussed the most promising lines of research in the near future and how innovation can contribute to the survival of the textile industry in Europe. The more than 100 participants also had the opportunity to discover some of the latest developments showcased by AITEX and exchange experiences in the fields of nanotechnology, biomaterials, technical fibres and processes applied to textiles. Attendees included representatives from some of the most relevant textile companies and research centres in Europe, Member States’ governments, public institutions, textile associations and universities. Textile R&D synergies Ms. Alexandra Curatolo, sales manager of European Children’s Fashion (ECF) explained quite clearly that to be able to compete in the current global environment, “companies have to give something more to the consumers, innovation must be at their core”. It is therefore crucial to generate “R&D synergies” among companies, research centres and universities. “Only more collaboration will lead to better competitiveness” she said. In that respect, the R&D manager of EURATEX, Mr. Lutz Walter, stated that “the era of mass-production is over”. Textile and clothing companies need to invest more in research and innovation to meet their costumers’ demands. That includes not only production management systems but also the development of new textiles with added functionalities that can appeal to specific uses in areas such as health, sports, leisure, or architecture. Diversification and fragmentation are the biggest obstacles that textile research faces today. That is why Mr. Walter highlighted the importance to bring together industry, research centres and universities to fully understand what is being done. “We do not need to reinvent the wheel 20 times”, he said, and that is why collaborations and partnerships are so important in the current scenario for the sector. Latest R&D developments On the occasion of the InfoDay, there was an exhibition with some of the most innovative prototypes and technologies developed by AITEX, many of them already commercially available. They included thermo-chromatic fabrics that change colour with the temperature which could be used, for example, to detect fever in babies and children. There was also underwear which incorporates the anti-bacterial properties of silver and copper, socks that fasten the healing of wounds and regenerate the skin, and an anti-stress fitted bed sheet able to capture and release static energy accumulated in our bodies. Other projects develop by AITEX and some of the invited centres were presented during the R&D parallel sessions. They included advancements in the fields of nanotechnology, microelectronics or biomaterials in textiles. Many of these are based on the addition of new characteristics to fibres and fabrics that make them suitable for innovative applications in a wide variety of fields such as medicine and rehabilitation, construction, transportation, agriculture or personal protection equipment. The added value of ecological alternatives Participants were also introduced to the “made in Green” ecological certification which has been developed by AITEX to certify manufactured products free from harmful substances, and with respect to the environment and the workers’ human rights. Traceability is a crucial aspect to obtain this label because the whole supply chain must be valuated from spinning to the finished garment. As the AITEX general manager, Mr. Vicente Blanes, explained, “made in Green” is a “marketing tool that contributes to have a better environment by giving visibility to certain products and companies”. The label was originally created in 2005 as a response to “cheap imports” produced in countries with clear absence of strict environmental and work regulation. That is why In his opinion, ecological protection should become an advantage for the EU textile industry to compete in global marketplace. There are already more than 40 companies with this certification being used in Spain and the label has recently been introduced in the UK and Belgium thanks to licensing agreements with Shirley Technologies and Centexbel.
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