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RCA-led consortium awarded £5.4m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to establish the Textiles Circularity Centre

The Royal College of Art (RCA)-led consortium has been awarded a grant of £5.4m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to establish the Textiles Circularity Centre (TCC) to enable the transition to a more ‘circular’ economy. 

Exploring Future Lifecycles
Exploring Future Lifecycles

The RCA’s Materials Science Research Centre, led by Professor Sharon Baurley, won the competitive bid - to set up the TCC in collaboration with scientists and researchers from Cranfield University, University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Leeds, University of Manchester and University of York, and from the RCA’s Computer Science Research Centre and School of Communication.

Professor Sharon Baurley
Professor Sharon Baurley
The TCC will provide underpinning research to enable the transition to a more circular economy that supports the brand ‘designed and made in the UK’. The Centre will catalyse growth in the fashion and textiles manufacturing sector and the creative technologies sector by supporting the SME fashion-apparel community with innovations in materials and product manufacturing, supply chain design, and consumer experience design. These new UK-based supply chains encompass waste management and farming through to textile production, design and consumer experience. 

The Centre will take an integrated systems approach to reduce reliance on imported, environmentally and ethically impactful materials, and to diversify supply chains. This approach will drive the green jobs agenda, and eliminate textile waste going to landfill and incineration, and increase resource productivity, reduce carbon emissions and environmental harm, provide alternatives to energy-from-waste, as well as grow the UK bioeconomy.
Burberry Material Futures Photographer: Shaun James Cox
Burberry Material Futures
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

Dr Paul Thompson, Vice-Chancellor, RCA commented:

“Today’s announcement could not be more timely, as we become increasingly aware of the negative environmental and social impact of fast fashion and the textiles industry.  Our Materials Science Research Centre is working with researchers in biology, materials science, engineering, advanced manufacturing, computer science, psychology, neuroscience and social sciences. It  takes  a human-centred approach to tackle the major challenges of textiles production and consumption from both a local and international  perspective. It is the perfect example of a STEM plus D (design) approach to solving urgent environmental challenges.”

Dr Paul Thompson
Dr Paul Thompson quote

Professor Sharon Baurley, RCA’s Director of the Textiles Circularity Centre, commented: 
“The environmental and human costs of fashion are huge. Covid-19 has brought into sharp relief the link between human activity and damage to the environment. The time is ripe to explore an alternative model for fashion-apparel. Our Circular Economy system design proposes to do just that by introducing a new relationship between materials and human wellbeing and by innovating circular fibres and textiles for the UK - and global - SME fashion industry.”

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng
Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng quote

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“We want to further the UK’s status as a world-leader in finding green solutions to industrial challenges, and projects like these are excellent examples of placing manufacturers at the forefront of the green industrial revolution.

“I am pleased to support these new cutting-edge research centres that will transform the way industry reuses and recycles materials – another great step forward as we build back greener from coronavirus and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“Creating a more circular economy for our waste and resources lies at the heart of this government’s transformative agenda for the environment, and we are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources.

These new research centres will play a vital part in creating a cleaner and more sustainable waste sector, thus helping us to better protect the environment and leave it in better shape for the next generation.”

The four-year award is one of five circular economy centres funded by the UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres Programme, which explores how reusing waste materials in textiles, construction and other industries could deliver huge environmental benefits and boost the UK economy.

Find out more about the Textiles Circularity Centre.