The Technitex partnership in technical textiles

International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology

ISSN: 0955-6222

Publication date: 1 October 2000



(2000), "The Technitex partnership in technical textiles", International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology, Vol. 12 No. 4.

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

The Technitex partnership in technical textiles

The Technitex partnership in technical textiles

Technical textiles may be defined as material and products manufactured primarily for their technical performance and functional properties rather than for their aesthetic and decorative characteristics.

Technical textiles act as the inputs to numerous baseline industries including:

  • aerospace;

  • agriculture, horticulture and forestry;

  • building and construction;

  • civil engineering and construction;

  • defence;

  • environmental protection;

  • filtration;

  • furniture, upholstery and floor furnishings;

  • health care;

  • hygiene and medical;

  • packaging;

  • personal and property protection;

  • sport and leisure;

  • telecommunications;

  • transport and vehicle industries.

There is a large, growing world market for technical textiles. Some estimates suggest that the global market could reach 13.7 billion tonnes, worth £56bn, by the year 2005 against 9.3 billion tonnes, worth £40bn, in 1995. Other forecasters predict the market could exceed £100bn and could represent up to 25 per cent of the total global textile market.

The UK technical textiles sector is forecast to grow by 5-6 per cent turnover per year until the year 2005 and to increase its share of the world markets. In the past five years, the sector has won eight Queen's Awards for Technological Achievement and 17 for Exports. Annual R&D spend by individual companies varies widely, but the average is 2-3 per cent of sales.

The UK Government-funded Faraday Partnerships Initiative focuses on improving the interaction between the UK research base and industry, through the involvement of research and technology organisations (RTOs). The successful TechniTex Partnership, awarded in June 2000, aims to provide focus for research, design and the development of new technologies and applications in the key and emerging manufacturing sector of technical textiles. Its role is to develop a pattern of co-ordinated research, training and technology transfer involving the science, engineering and technology base, in close relationship with the requirements of the industry.

The TechniTex Partnership consists of three leading UK universities in textile technology – Heriot-Watt, Leeds and UMIST – and BTTG, the largest textile research and technology organisation in Europe. These partners represent a combined national resource with internationally recognised knowledge and specialised skills.

The TechniTex initiative has already gained significant support from the technical textiles industry, both from companies and industrial bodies.

The partnership aims to work in close collaboration with the technical textiles value chain, emphasising small companies, to create an extensive network of UK manufacturers in the sector and to re-position the industrial network partners to become research-led and internationally leading.

Some appreciation of the range of applications for technical textiles can be found by visiting Web sites of those companies and industrial bodies which have to date expressed their support for the TechniTex Faraday Partnership initiative. A few examples might include:

  • Roofing material, including that of the William Younger Building, home to Edinburgh's "Our Dynamic Earth" visitor attraction.

  • Ultra-steep embankment reinforcements in road building, for example, the roads bed of the South Dudley by-pass.

  • Flame-retardant protective workwear.

  • Lifelines used by NASA astronauts during space walks (woven in Scotland).

  • Artificial arteries manufactured for health care.

The objective of the partnership is to work in close collaboration with the technical textiles industry to provide:

  • A co-ordinated programme of industry-driven research and training in technical textiles.

  • A proactive interface between industry and academia to share knowledge and awareness.

  • A focus for academic excellence and industrial innovation and best practice in technical textiles.

The partnership will deliver:

  • co-ordinated strategic research;

  • industrially relevant R&D;

  • technology transfer into industry;

  • technology reviews;

  • graduate and postgraduate training;

  • industrially-aware research scientists;

  • a forum for the technical textiles industry;

  • technology translation – brokerage of ideas between academia and industry.

To be fully effective and of maximum benefit to the UK technical textiles sector the partnership must be industrially driven. Those who join TechniTex as industrial partners/supporters will have the opportunity, through industry forums, personal contacts, representation of industry on the Industrial Advisory Board, and so forth, to influence and direct the course of research, to specify training packages of immediate and long-term relevance, and to have access to the textile technologists of the future as they train. Industrial partners will also be invited to join the Industrial Advisory Board of TechniTex, meeting formally bi-annually to ensure that the partnership remains focused on the core objectives and the needs of industry. The Industrial Advisory Board will provide guidance to the TechniTex director and will also have representatives on the board of management of the partnership.

The IJCST is looking forward to receiving technical papers and further news from this strategic initiative.

George K. Stylios