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Key details


  • 22 June 2017


  • RCA

Read time

  • 2 minutes

Burberry and the Royal College of Art have announced the establishment of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group, supported by a £3 million grant from the Burberry Foundation. The new Group will be the first explicit ‘STEAM’ research centre at a traditional art and design university, applying radical thinking to invent more sustainable materials, transform consumer experience and advance manufacturing for the benefit of industry and the wider community. The grant also includes £750,000 to expand the existing Burberry Design Scholarship at the RCA, enabling more students from the UK and EU to reach their full potential regardless of their financial circumstances.

Christopher Bailey, a trustee of the Burberry Foundation and Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer, Burberry commented: ‘I am thrilled that the Burberry Foundation can support the establishment of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group at the Royal College of Art. The Group will cover a broad scope of work, from researching and developing more innovative sustainable materials to designing new manufacturing methods, as well as nurturing and supporting even more British-trained design talent. This new partnership also reflects Burberry’s heritage. The company’s founder, Thomas Burberry, was himself a material innovator. He invented the breathable, water resistant and hardwearing gabardine fabric in 1879 that is still the cornerstone of our brand today.’

Dr Paul Thompson, Rector of the Royal College of Art said: ‘It is an honour to be partnering with the Burberry Foundation in the field of materials and advanced manufacturing. The establishment of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group is an exciting step in incorporating the future of materials science into our research and teaching. From its founding days, Burberry has pioneered high-performance materials, becoming one of Britain’s most successful and dynamic global companies. Over the last six years the Burberry Design Scholarships have been invaluable in supporting students, and the expansion of these scholarships will ensure the Royal College of Art can continue to generate outstanding creative talent in the UK.’

The Burberry Material Futures Research Group will deliver the academic vision for materials science research outlined in the RCA’s strategic plan 2016–2021. The Group will act as a virtual centre until it moves to a permanent home in the RCA’s new building in Battersea, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, scheduled to open in 2020.

The activities of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group will be led by the Burberry Chair of Material Futures, who will also be the academic lead of the Material Science Research Centre and the first industry-named Chair post at the College.

The mission of the Burberry Foundation is to take a long-term approach to promoting the STEAM agenda, tackling educational inequality, reducing waste and supporting social and economic development. The grant to the Royal College of Art is the first in a series to be announced during 2017.

These grants are also in line with Burberry’s new responsibility agenda. The agenda marks a significant step change in the company’s approach to responsibility issues and will focus on three ambitious goals over the next five years: to support 1 million people in the communities that sustain Burberry’s business and the wider luxury industry; to ensure 100% of Burberry’s products have at least one element that drives positive change; and to invent new approaches to revaluing waste created in the production of luxury goods, whilst becoming carbon neutral in its own operations.

In designing its responsibility agenda, Burberry focused on specific needs that are closely linked to, or a direct impact of, the footprint of the industry or the company itself. The grant from the Burberry Foundation to establish the Burberry Material Futures Research Group complements Burberry’s existing relationship with the RCA and their shared interest in material science and technological innovation.