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Shaping New Horizons for the Textile Sector: 18th Textile ETP Conference 2024

The 18th Textile ETP Annual Conference in Mechelen brought together industry leaders, experts, and innovators for two dynamic days of discussions and insights, focusing on sustainability, innovation, fundings, and the future of the textile sector.

Day 1

The first day of the Textile ETP Annual Conference in Mechelen began with an engaging session moderated by Jan Mahy from Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Opening the conference, our President, Marina Crnoja-Cosic, outlined the 2024 Textile ETP agenda, emphasizing the launch of the EU Textile Research Partnership and the aim to extend this initiative through 2028. Amaryllis Verhoeven from DG GROW, European Commission, then dived into strategies to bolster the textile industry's competitiveness, emphasizing sustainable practices, the need for innovative business models, and the importance of implementing stable trade regulations. Amaryllis Verhoeven also highlighted tools, such as the Digital Product Passport, to enhance transparency within the supply chain. Dirk Vantyghem from Euratex highlighted the importance of the EU Textile Strategy by reviewing the European Commission's key actions to reduce dependence on non-EU resources and discussing upcoming regulations that will impact the sector. Emphasizing on the need for a high-quality regulatory framework, a comprehensive EU strategy, stimulating sustainable fashion demand, and sustaining industry transitions through innovation and digitalization. Our Secretary General, Lutz Walter, concluded the session by presenting our vision for the industry's sustainable future. He outlined three pivotal challenges: transitioning to biobased materials, electrifying production using renewable energy, and digitizing supply chains. He also proposed a vision for the EU Textile Partnership, detailing strategies to leverage €60 million in seed investment and how to increase it to €6 billion by 2030, thereby advancing from research to industrial competitiveness

Following the plenary session, participants engaged in 3 breakout sessions aimed at shaping the partnership's Strategic Agenda, pivotal in defining themes for textile calls under Horizon Europe. Led by industry experts, the sessions gathered open input to prioritize and assess technology readiness. Each session focused on a key R&I theme: Sustainable Materials and Clean Processes, Digital Supply Chain and New Business Models, and Advanced Manufacturing and High-Performance Textiles, moderated respectively by Lisa Bour from RI.SE and Guy Buyle from Centexbel, Carla Fité from UPC and Dieter Stellmach from DITF, and Jan Jordan from ITA Aachen and Nelson Duraes from CeNTI. 

In a final panel discussion, moderated by Aalto University's Maarit Salolainen, Braz Costa discussed the transition of research to industry, shedding light on CITEVE's role and the array of services it offers in R&D. He emphasized key principles to accelerate technology adoption in the textile sector: being really hybrid meaning scientist with a business mindset, anticipating the business demand, inspiring, doing prototype and demonstrations, feeding knowledge flow, and influencing public policies. Sofia Ferrari from D-House & Pattern Group discussed their company's innovative technologies and materials, highlighting their three-phase model (exploration, implementation, dissemination) facilitated by their innovation hub. Dalila Poggi from Pangaia elaborated on the company's transition from research to market, emphasizing Pangaia's certification as a B Corp. She outlined their experience in accelerating start-ups in the field of materials science, citing a proven track record of bridging the gap between product commercialization and research. Additionally, she presented their portfolio of new technologies and trademarks.

At the end of the day, the Textile ETP team led an interactive General Assembly with our members, providing insights into Textile ETP's progress and the services it offers, while also introducing upcoming activities for the future. Members were invited to provide feedback on the quality of our services and share their thoughts on the new initiatives in development. Closing the first day of Conference, all participants convened to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the creation of Textile ETP.


Day 2

The second day kicked off with a panel moderated by Paolo Canonico from SAATI. Christine Goulay from Sustainabelle highlighted the importance of fostering relationships with venture capital (VC) and corporate venture capital (CVC) entities, highlighting the increasing investments in the textile sector. She outlined the due diligence process, emphasizing the critical role of sustainability and the innovator team in garnering interest from CVCs, ultimately leading to successful partnerships and innovation adoption. Maria Arroyo shed light on Fashion4Good's innovative platform for textile start-ups, which operates on two core principles: an Innovation Platform and serving as a Convener for Change. The platform's approach revolves around three pillars: scouting and screening, validating promising ideas, and scaling and adopting solutions. Annelie Radhall shared insights from Boras INK, an incubator for textile start-ups, outlining a systematic approach to idea validation. From confirming business potential to preparing for scaling and eventual exit, she emphasized the importance of validating both the team and the idea to ensure sustainable growth and impact. Alexandra de Raeve from HOGENT provided an overview into the CITE Project, bridging academia and startups. By fostering collaboration among CITE partners and articulating a clear vision, the project aims to create a new dynamic and agile ecosystem in and between higher education institutions that will boost textile circularity and circular economy in innovation and entrepreneurial courses. 

Afterwards, 8 start-ups showcased pioneering innovations and shared insights into their journey towards scalability and the challenges they face. In the Circularity & Renewable Materials theme, Fabiana Fantinel of CO2Bioclean presented their technology that transforms industrial emissions into biopolymers, addressing textile waste. Raouf Medimagh from Recyc’Elit discussed the recycling polyester-based fabrics, while Brian Jester of Synovance highlighted their cutting-edge sustainable materials namely bio-produced dyes. Bruno Marengo of Fairbrics showcased their process using CO2 waste to create synthetic fabrics. In Textile Digitalisation and Sustainable Sourcing, Christian Lott of ColorDigital introduced a phygital ecosystem (physical+digital) simplifying supply chains, while Simon Johnson of Pattern Project unveiled an AI-driven solution for production planning. Finally, in Smart & High-Performance Textiles, Julien Payen of Lattice Medical presented innovative implants for reconstructive surgery, and Sam Issa from Nano Textile Solutions showcased nanotechnology-based solutions for a sustainable textile industry. The breakout sessions were respectitly moderated by Juliette Jaupitre from Techtera, and Textile ETP's Judith Bosch.

The final panel of the conference, moderated by Lutz Walter, featured insightful presentations from 4 scale-ups. Guus de Hoog from Elitac Wearables showcased their expertise in the smart textiles sector, offering examples of their innovative products. Cedric Vanhoeck from Resortecs delved into the recycling sector, discussing the company's automated disassembly and sorting processes. Åsa Östlund from TreeToTextile elaborated on their mission and materials, emphasizing their cellulose-based fibre as a sustainable alternative to cotton and viscose. Max Easton from explored the importance of quality control in today's textile industry. He highlighted the challenges of manual inspection and the need for digitalization and traceability throughout the supply chain. He outlined key strategies for effective quality control, emphasizing early detection of issues, preventive measures over reactive approaches, and the integration of AI-enabled real-time inspection technologies.

Across the two dynamic days of the 18th Textile ETP Annual Conference, attendees engaged in insightful discussions, sharing knowledge and experiences while highlighting the industry's commitment to sustainability, innovation, and collaboration. From launching EU funding programmes to outlining strategic agendas and showcasing pioneering innovations, the conference provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the textile industry. This Annual Conference served as a mean for collaboration, setting the stage for a dynamic and vibrant future for the textile industry.

Photos of the Textile ETP Annual Conference 2024 are available here.

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