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Successful EPSRC funding bid supports RCA Materials Science Research Centre’s drive for apparel-textiles sustainability

 

The RCA’s Materials Science Research Centre (MSRC), in partnership with University College London (UCL), has been awarded a 2.5-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Sustainable Digital Society award to drive its mission of sustainability in textiles.

The £845K funding will support the project ‘Consumer Experience Digital Tools for Dematerialisation for the Circular Economy’ which aims to reduce waste in the UK apparel textile industry through creating tools that encourage consumers to make clothes last longer through care, repair, upgrading and recycling. The research is one of ten new projects funded by the EPSRC’s Sustainable Digital Society Call, a scheme supporting projects that find digital solutions to pressing sustainability issues.

diagram showing how a contactless imaging device for detecting material properties would work
Contactless Imaging for Detecting Material Properties, Amber Anderson
One of the core principles of the circular economy is to keep products in use for as long as possible. A major way this can be achieved is through supporting people to value their clothing and the materials they are made from. This research will help achieve ‘zero avoidable waste’ in the UK apparel-textiles sector by innovating a suite of digital consumer experience tools that empower consumers to extend product life. These tools will shape new cultures of consumption that meet market demands for greater sustainability, while giving consumers greater agency to respect their environment, becoming custodians rather than consumers. 

The research’s Principal Investigator is Professor Sharon Baurley, Director of MSRC and Professor of Design & Materials at the RCA. Discussing the successful funding bid, Professor Baurley commented: 

‘The significance of this research is to find ways to promote people to consume less by designing experiences and services for products that add value to them that are based on human wellbeing needs. As a leader in human-centred design, the RCA is uniquely placed to lead a new genre for design that is based on the experience being the "product".’ 

As a leader in human-centred design, the RCA is uniquely placed to lead a new genre for design that is based on the experience being the
Professor Sharon Baurley
‘The project relates to the MSRC’s focus on environmental and human wellbeing, and taking a systems design approach to the circular economy and sustainability that encompasses human culture, society, and materials science and design. This approach is closely aligned with the RCA’s STEAM strategy.’

Professor Baurley is leading a mixed disciplinary team from the RCA and UCL, which includes: Dr Bruna Petreca, RCA Research Fellow in Human Experience & Materials; Professor Nadia Berthouze, Professor & Deputy Director of UCL Interaction Centre; Professor Carey Jewitt, Professor of Learning and Technology in UCL’s Institute of Education; and Dr Youngjun Cho from UCL’s Computer Science department. The research will adopt a Citizen Science approach and apply the team’s expertise in human-computer interaction, social sciences, design and phenomenological approaches. 

The RCA is currently recruiting a Post-doctoral Researcher to support the project. The successful Postdoctoral Researcher will be instrumental in contributing their knowledge and expertise in human centred design, design research methods, human sensory perception, and physical computing. Full details of the role and how to apply can be found here.