Miriam’s research reaches beyond disciplinary boundaries, creating trans-disciplinary methodological approaches to material design at the intersection of materials science, technology and design.
Miriam holds an MA in Material Futures from Central Saint Martins and a BA in Textile Design (University of the Arts and Design, Linz). She received a funding award from the London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc) at the University of the Arts London (UAL) towards her PhD research with the Centre for Circular Design, where she pioneered processes for regenerated cellulose from textile waste.
Miriam was a visiting researcher and designer in residence in leading materials science laboratories, developing innovative technologies for circular materials recycling, with a long-term collaboration with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden – working with the Cellulose-based textiles section of the Bioeconomy Division’s Biorefinery Unit over four years – as well as in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at Aalto University’s School of Chemical Engineering in Finland. She has led an interdisciplinary design-science project with a funding award from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), exploring design possibilities in regenerated cellulose materials in organic chemistry laboratories.
Prior to joining the RCA, she was based at the University of the Arts London for almost ten years, completing research engagements with the Centre for Circular Design (CCD), the Textile Futures Research Centre (TFRC), UAL Futures and MA Material Futures, as well delivering modules and projects as Academic Lead, Module Leader and Associate Lecturer in Sustainable Design, Circular Design and Material Futures at Chelsea College of Arts and Central Saint Martins.
The Network looks at the possibility to replace finite resources with by-products of the food industry from specific geographical locations.
A series of studies to assess the feasibility of the three main research areas for Sustainable Future Materials, Manufacturing and Consumer Experience.
Her research focuses on activating new models for fabrication, transparency and regeneration in the context of a circular economy, particularly in the advancement of local and global bioeconomies. She develops new processes for manufacturing that respond to the changing material properties of bio-based and waste materials at every stage of the value chain.
Through her work in the MISTRA Future Fashion programme during the first phase of the consortium (2011–15) based at the Centre for Circular Design, she explored many aspects of systemic change, design strategies, interdisciplinary collaboration and design thinking.
Miriam’s research creates innovative materials that are fit for a 21st-century circular bioeconomy. Her practice takes place at the nexus between the point where a material is discarded and where it is transformed into a new form, developing new processes for manufacture with a holistic perspective on the whole material lifecycle.Her practice-based research identified three models for a sustainable material future, which together form a blueprint for interdisciplinary research that she integrates into her work in the Burberry Material Futures Research Group.
Through designing interventions at different stages of the value chain, starting from the raw material, Miriam connects materials circularity with new models for manufacturing. In the Burberry Material Futures Research Group, her practice integrates a STEAM approach to establish new, transdisciplinary approaches for material design.
Miriam is an active member of the research community, launching several initiatives including the ‘Beyond Design: Cross-disciplinary Encounters’ conference, and is the founder of the research studio Material Activism. She presents her vision for a future sustainable materiality in academic and industry events, exhibits her work internationally and consults industry on material innovation projects.HIDE
- Co-Investigator (2020–2022) Bio-Manufacturing Textiles from Waste. BBSRC Super Follow-on project (£776,472) with University of York and University of Leeds
- Co-Investigator (2020–2021) Novel High-Performance Textile Composites. Biomass and Biorefinery Network (BBNet) Proof of Concept fund (£49,744).
- Co-Investigator (2019–2020) A Brazil-UK Network for Natural Polymers derived from Local Food Industry By-products. British Academy Global Challenges Research Fund (£23,000).
- (2015–2018) London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) at the University of the Arts London: PhD grant.
- (2018) London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc): Student Development Fund: Design residency at Aalto University’s School of Chemical Engineering.
- (2017) London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc): Student Development Fund: Design residency at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.
- (2016) London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc): Student Development Fund: Design residency at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.
- (2016) London Doctoral Design Centre (LDoc): Cohort Development Fund: ‘Beyond Design: Cross-disciplinary Collaboration’ conference, 8 June 2017, University of the Arts London and Royal College of Art.
- (2014) European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST): Funding award towards leading a design-science project in ‘Design Possibilities for Regenerated Cellulose Materials’.
Current and recent projects
Bio-Manufacturing Textiles from Waste (2020-2022)
This research explores the potential of using cellulose from agricultural by-products and the biological fraction of municipal solid waste as a replacement to cellulose that is currently derived from trees for semi-synthetic textile fibres such as viscose and lyocell. The work involves maximising the productivity of biotechnological systems for producing cellulose, trialling the production of viscose-like regenerated fibres from our cellulose, and producing and testing textiles made from these fibres. The project is led by the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York, which will convert wastes into sugars for bacterial fermentation into cellulose. The University of Leeds will lead to the trials of regenerated cellulose fibre production in sustainable and non-toxic regeneration technologies. Once these fibres are produced, they will be introduced into a range of textile fabrication processes in the Sustainable Future Materials theme of the Materials Science Research Centre. The proposed work will aim to increase process efficiency and to generate data to carry out a techno-economic analysis to assess the commercial viability of this novel process for textile manufacturing. MSRC Visiting Professor Phil Purnell will assess the environmental impacts of making textiles in this way using a life cycle analysis.
Novel High-Performance Textile Composites (2020–2021)
The Burberry Material Futures Research Group (BMFRG) is co-investigator on a project led by Professor Simon McQueen-Mason at the University of York that has been awarded a Proof of Concept fund (PoC) by the Biomass and Biorefinery Network (BBNet). The BBNet is a phase II Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The research will explore how the extraction of hemicellulose from wheat straw for fermentation can be used for the direct synthesis of durable materials for textiles. The project will investigate the use of lignin, an underutilised component of wheat straw, to modify bacterial cellulose for the production of novel high-performance composites in textile applications. The research forms part of the Sustainable Future Materials theme to design and develop textiles from crop residues and biowaste.
A Brazil-UK Network for Natural Polymers derived from Local Food Industry By-products (2019-2020)
The Brazil-UK Network connects an interdisciplinary group of researchers from materials science, human behaviour, design, manufacturing models and service industry (chefs) looking at the possibility to replace petroleum-based and virgin resources from agriculture with by-products of the food industry from specific geographical locations. Based on the ‘locally productive and globally connected’ principle of the Fab City, the project seeks to map locally available bio-based materials in Brazil and the UK that demonstrate potential for a circular economy of resources and for new processing technologies that can transform these resources into new materials for multiple applications, from textiles, medical and apparel products. The RCA and USP (Universidade de São Paulo) are the lead applicants for this proposal funded by the British Academy Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), together with seven other Brazilian intuitions involved as core partners and collaborators: amongst them is included the São Paulo State Secretary for Inclusion and Social Development, Centro Universitário Belas Artes de São Paulo and Instituto Pesquisas Tecnológicas do Estado de São Paulo.
Funding award from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) to lead an international design-science collaboration with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. The ‘Design Possibilities for Regenerated Cellulose Materials' project aimed to find new applications and processes for closed loop chemically recycled textiles. The project was structured around a design residency in the organic chemistry laboratory for the identification, chemical recycling and spinning of waste textiles into new regenerated fibres. The result of the project is DeNAture, the first in-fibre material coding system to track and trace regenerated cellulose fibres in the circular economy. The outcomes were presented in materials science and design research conferences, industry events, international exhibitions and project reports for COST and MISTRA Future Fashion.
MISTRA Future Fashion (2011–2015)
During the first phase of the MISTRA Future Fashion consortium (2011-2015) consisting of eight project partners between Sweden, Denmark and the UK, I worked in the design thinking project at the Centre for Circular Design (CCD, University of the Arts London). The project’s deliverables included a training program for over 200 designers at H&M, the online open innovation platform Textiletoolbox, a state of the art report of sustainable design strategies for Swedish fashion, an exhibition and a final report. The action research approach was complemented with research into Swedish sustainable fashion, case studies for the TED’s TEN strategies for sustainable design and the design of workshop tools for the training program at H&M, Konstfack University and project partner workshops. The project’s completion included the curation of the Textile Toolbox exhibition and the co-authored final project report.
Recipes for Material Activism (2013)
‘Recipes for Material Activism’ is the first open source publication for making bioplastics using locally available non-toxic ingredients. The publication presents models of collaborative production towards a distributed manufacture of textiles, packaging, products and temporary spatial installations using low tech tools in a ‘kitchen lab’. The four recipes demonstrate possibilities to produce twenty known processes in an alternative way with the potential to replace toxic petroleum-based materials in design prototyping. The publication has inspired a new generation of material designers worldwide to participate in the democratisation of material production by developing their own recipes for biomaterials.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Ribul, M. (2019) Material Driven Textile Design: Designing Fully Integrated Fabrication and Finishing Processes with Regenerated Cellulose in the Materials Science Laboratory. PhD Thesis, University of the Arts London.
Ribul, M. and de la Motte, H. (2018) ‘Material Translation: Validation and Visualization as Transdisciplinary Methods for Textile Design and Materials Science in the Circular Bioeconomy,’ Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice (RFTD), 6(1), pp. 66-88.
Englund, F., Wedin, H., Ribul, M., de la Motte, H. and Östlund, Å (2018) 'Textile tagging to enable automated sorting and beyond'. MISTRA Future Fashion report. Stockholm: RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.
Ribul, M. and de la Motte, H. (2016) ‘The Material Affinity of Design and Science for a Circular Economy’, Proceedings of the Circular Transitions Conference, London, United Kingdom, 23-24 November, pp. 236-248.
Earley, R., Vuletich, C., Goldsworthy, K., Politowicz, K., and Ribul, M. (2015) 'The Textile Toolbox: New Design Thinking, Materials and Processes for Sustainable Fashion Textiles'. MISTRA Future Fashion End of Award Report (2011–2015), Sweden.
Ribul, M., Cosaca Lemos, J. and Whitehead, L. (2015) 'UAL Futures Learn Report: Co-designing a Digital Creative Toolkit for UAL'. Available at: http://ualfutures.myblog.arts.ac.uk/files/2015/10/UAL-Futures-Learn-Report.pdf (Accessed: 11 March 2019).
Ribul, M. and de la Motte, H. (2014) 'Design Possibilities in Regenerated Cellulose Materials'. COST, European Cooperation in Science and Technology FP 1205 project report. Borås: RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.
Ribul, M. (2013) 'Recipes for Material Activism'. Available at: https://issuu.com/miriamribul/docs/miriam_ribul_recipes_for_material_a (Accessed: 11 March 2019).
- Collaboration with the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology, University of York
- Member of the Biomass and Biorefinery Network (BBNet) funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)