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Accelerating Smart Textile Entrepreneurship by Innovative Cross-regional, Cross-disciplinary and Cross-cultural Value Chains

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - smartX (Accelerating Smart Textile Entrepreneurship by Innovative Cross-regional, Cross-disciplinary and Cross-cultural Value Chains)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

SmartX is a cascading funding project funded under the EU’s HORIZON 2020 Programme, call Innosup-01-2008 for cluster facilitated projects for new industrial value chains.

Smart Textiles, defined as textiles with integrated electronic functionalities, represent an emerging market which according to various international studies has the potential into growing into a multi-billion Europe opportunity of the coming years. An estimate produced by EURATEX - the European Apparel and Textile Confederation pegs the value of this market in the EU alone at € 1.5 billion in 2023.
Europe is in a world-leading position in terms of textile research, technology development and industry innovation and also has a highly sophisticated and innovative microelectronics, IoT and software sector. Smart textile products are expected to be able to provide high added value solutions for consumers and professional customers in a broad range of end markets such as healthcare, sports & protection, defense and transport, construction and interiors and others.

Realising a true market breakthrough for smart textiles requires collaboration between researchers, technology developers, manufacturers, service providers and end customers from many disciplines. In addition the current smart textile innovators are scattered across Europe, often start-up or SMEs with limited internal resources, need to build innovation and business development partnerships across borders and along the value chain. A specific problem is the lack of industrial manufacturing capacities for smart textiles due to the highly complex nature of multi-material joining and assembly and the currently too small volumes of smart textiles.

The SmartX project seeks to overcome these challenges by selecting, funding and coaching a portfolio high-potential SME-led projects innovating in the field of smart textiles addressing the health and well-being, sports, protection or industrial end markets.
A specific emphasis is put on projects which can favourably impact the emerging industrial manufacturing value chain for smart textiles in Europe, which has the potential to turn into a significant growth market over the coming years.

A special role will be played by the cluster organisations making up a significant share of the SmartX consortium. They will be instrumental in identifying and reaching out to promising SMEs, coaching them during the project application and implementation work and helping them to valorise their results through exploitation coaching and dissemination activities.
During the first 18 months of the SmartX project, 2 open calls for projects were launched and 19 projects, directly benefiting 37 SMEs from 13 European countries were selected. A total of € 1.74 million of lump sum funding was allocated to these 19 projects and all 37 SMEs involved in the projects will benefit from customised free-of-charge coaching delivered by SmartX project partners.
The 3rd and final open call was launched just after the end of the reporting period in November 2020 and will close in mid-February 2021, allocating another up to € 660,000 of lump sum funding.

More than 200 expressions of interest for SmartX funding project were collected during the first two open calls and 121 SME’s have been individually coached during the application or project induction process.
Extensive dissemination and community building activities included the organization of over 20 events, workshops or webinars with well over 1000 cumulative participants, the set-up of the project website and an on-line collaboration platform with over 500 registered members, an SME self-assessment tool for Smart Textile Innovation Readiness, a regular newsletter with over 800 subscribers, a LinkedIn page with 300+ followers and a Twitter account with 250 followers.

In summary the SmartX project met all its objectives for the first 18-months period and reached and in many cases far exceeded its KPI’s, while having to deal with several unexpected challenges most notably the impact of the COVID pandemic since March 2020.
The project consortium continues to work in a highly committed, collaborative and mutually supportive spirit through very regular virtual meetings.
The SmartX trailblazer project portfolio of currently 19 projects involving 37 SMEs from 13 European countries, expected to grow to close to 30 projects with up to 50 participating SMEs is a unique asset in Europe's strive to become global leader in the emerging smart textiles market.

The SmartX online community with over 600 subscribers and a wealth of interactive tools for networking, partnership building, idea and technology crowdsourcing or self-assessment which already helped numerous smart textiles innovators from across Europe to find partners for new collaborative activities, will be further developed in the 2nd half of the project in view of its full operational and financial sustainability post-project.

The coaching-the-coaches activities transferring valuable coaching and mentoring skills to the cluster and other innovation intermediary experts involved in the project partnership will strengthen the services of these organisations in supporting SMEs in their collaborative and open innovation activities. The links developed between the SmartX partners of the textile and IoT/microelectronics sectors can be exploited for follow-up cross-sectoral programmes and projects.

The many physical and online events piloted during the SmartX project will be replicated by the project partners in their other regional, national or European activities.

The best practices of cluster-facilitated SME innovation support for the emergence of a new cross-sectoral value chains will be recorded and made available to policy makers, programme managers, clusters and other innovation support entities for peer-to-peer learning.

The cascading funding model for SME innovation in fragmented and geographically dispersed value chain under the coordination of a well-established and well-respected European networking organisation is a success case worthy of promotion and replication in upcoming research and innovation programmes such as HORIZON Europe.
SmartX target end markets
Hackathon in Berlin 2019.
Get Ready Workshop to launch 1st Call in Lille, France