Ignite Lab Series Wrap Up: Designing out waste in a circular textile industry

Posted on: 06/01/2023

 As we begin a new year, we wanted to reflect on the successful launch of the Ignite Lab series, the first focusing on Sustainable Textiles and Circular Systems in the north of England. The event series, which included on-site visits and online sessions, aimed to connect businesses looking to innovate with design knowledge and expertise, providing a diverse range of opportunities to learn and engage.

Every year, we throw away the equivalent of a carry-on suitcase filled with textiles, whether it be clothes, curtains, carpets or the countless other items we no longer want or need. Barely 10% of this is recycled, only a little more is reused, and the lion’s share goes to landfill.

When you think that on average, we each spend a little under £1000 a year on clothing alone, this is not only environmentally unsustainable. It is an enormous waste of money.

How might businesses in the UK textile industry, therefore, provide a better, cheaper, less wasteful and higher value service to their customers?


Ignite Lab: Sustainable Textiles and Circular Systems

This autumn saw the launch of Innovate UK KTN’s inaugural Ignite Lab, the first in a new series of events aimed at helping businesses gain access to design innovation expertise across defined challenge areas. The theme of this first Lab was Sustainable Textiles and Circular Systems, with a place-based focus on the north of England.

With a hybrid format comprising 8 site visits and 6 online design innovation sessions, over 60 businesses participated, including textile designers, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers.

Delegates from these companies visited sorting facilities, training centres of excellence, manufacturers and academic knowledge bases, while gaining valuable insights to design innovation methodologies for circularisation, designing for ends, servitisation and strategic futures.

Ignite Labs were envisaged for just this purpose: to connect companies with plans to innovate with design knowledge and expertise. Design is acknowledged in Innovate UK’s Plan for Action as one of the foundations to successful innovation, but “too few companies use design optimally and they often use it rather late in the innovation process”.

Why join in?

Are you ready to take your innovation to the next level? Future Ignite Labs’ will offer a unique opportunity for ambitious innovators like you to expand your knowledge, connections, and impact. By choosing to participate, you will:

1. Get introduced and join a dynamic network of organisations at various stages of the innovation journey, allowing you to share your own insights and learn from others.

2. Gain valuable access to thought leaders in your industry, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of the future direction of your ecosystem.

3. Have tailored design knowledge and expertise at your fingertips, allowing you to confidently apply the latest techniques and strategies to drive your business forward.

What others had to say...

Delegates to this Lab report that they found the experience “not only educational and engaging” but that “the opportunity to interact with others in small groups added further value to the whole experience.”

They found that they were effectively signposted to available funding and partnership opportunities and that not only were they able to see how to innovate their particular products and services, but also how design might add value elsewhere in their business.

We are thrilled to have received such positive feedback from attendees. It was a pleasure to bring together such a diverse group of businesses and experts, and we are grateful to everyone who contributed and participated in the on-site visits and online sessions. We hope that the knowledge and connections gained will be valuable assets as these companies continue on their innovation journeys.

Next steps?

Participation in an Innovate UK Ignite Lab is a good first step in not only using good design, but using it where it matters most, and for many companies, it may be the beginning of a journey towards new sources of funding, new collaborations and networks, or even new ideas, products, services and experiences.

A full schedule of workshops and site visits is offered free of charge, offering delegates the opportunity to see first-hand what innovations are currently underway and direct access to thought leaders in the field.

While this first Lab was aimed at supporting circularity in the textile industry, this is of course not the only challenge we face. Each Ignite Lab will focus on a different theme and sector, and Innovate UK KTN will run more over the coming months and years.

If you would like to know more or feel you have a good idea for a future Ignite Lab theme, or just want to stay updated, please get in touch with the Design Team at Innovate UK KTN. We’re always keen for a chat.

More resources

Would you like to get involved in the discussion? Join the Design Innovation Platform to network and collaborate with experts across the Design community.

Got a design-related question? Book a 1:1 drop-in session with the Design Team at Innovate UK KTN to discuss your business and discover more about how to get involved with the Design Innovation Network community.

Get the highlights from one of the Ignite Labs event held on the 26th of October in partnership with the Textile Centre of Excellence at their base in Huddersfield in a guest article by Dr Mark Wade, Sustainability Advisor & Event Facilitator.

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Harry Kerr

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