Bradford Textile Challenge 2014

SDC was delighted to be involved in the Bradford Textile Industry Challenge, which took place in early 2014.

SDC’s Technical Director Andrew Filarowski reports on the week.

The Bradford Textile Industry Challenge was held over the week 27th Jan to 3rd Feb 2014 and facilitated by the SPACE/Bradford Challenge and linked to a £750K European Commission Tempus funded project called INNOLAB. This also explains why a number of visiting students from Ukraine and Belarus were involved. The INNOLAB project is headed by Professor Christos Kalantaridis from the School of Management, University of Bradford, and aims to develop a network of five innovation laboratories (three in Ukraine and two in Belarus) that will be part of undergraduate curricula and regional innovation ecosystems. Students from the University of Bradford and Bradford College made up the teams who competed in the development of innovative ideas for the revival of the textile industry in Bradford.

BTC3According to INNOLAB the innovation laboratories are visible points of cooperation between universities and enterprises. They allow student teams (often inter-disciplinary and with involvement of academics) to work with Enterprises in resolving ‘real-world’ problems and developing innovations, as part of their studies. This is by and large also one of the aims of the SPACE/Bradford Challenge. But the framework can be much wider – for example, the Textile Challenge is part of a bigger aim of nurturing economic regeneration, circular and green economy – and that requires collaboration between many more participants than business and university alone.

It is not only the universities such as Harvard or MIT or Lancaster that are embracing the concept. Innovation labs are being increasingly used by NGOs such as Unicef, community groups working on specific issues or themes, such as mental health or rethinking the financial system or governance, like the Civic Systems Lab. Even the government bodies are embracing it, e.g. USAID, in collaboration with civic or educational actors.  If you type “innovation labs” into google search you will get a LOT of results.

BTC4Although the labs have considerable differences, one might argue that they also share some key similarities – for instance, the underlying aim is to bring people together to solve problems and create solutions. They often have “incubation” space and financial support attached, to implement the ideas developed. There are different ways the labs can do that but they hold an enormous potential for mobilising all sectors of society in development initiatives, innovation and collaboration of all sorts. Properly designed and embedded or “in sync”, these “hubs” are the playground for systems innovators, learning architects, entrepreneurs and curious change-makers.
Speakers on the first day to lay the foundation of the project were:

  • Prof. Christos Kalantaridis gave a general overview of the programme/ study visit and what participants might take away from it
  • Prof. Peter Hopkinson introduced the re:centre building as it is BREEAM outstanding – probably one of the “greenest” buildings in the world – and also why textile industry and circular economy provide major opportunities at every level
  • Mr Mark Clayton, an Economic Strategy Officer from Bradford Council presented a fascinating history of the city, illustrated with curious images and graphs. Textiles have played such a significant part in the city’s development (and “undevelopment”). Mark’s role is to create 30 000+ jobs over the next 6-7 years.
  • Ms. Farnaz Khan was next on stage, sharing with us her journey as an entrepreneur and how she developed Fit Britches. Farnaz had a vast amount of insight into the challenges and opportunities of the textile industry, from the technology to the human capital. Her expertise of markets, research and development in the field is spectacular!
  • Ms Emma Hill who started a social enterprise called Re:considered alongside her colleague Judy Connor, shared some similar sentiments to Farnaz when it came to pointing out the generational skills gap in the field. However, there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to make use of the textile “waste” to develop new products and avoid sending materials into landfill. This is exactly what Emma does! Check our her Pinterest site for inspiration.



Over the week the students had the opportunity to visit Bradford and explore the rich heritage of textiles and education and produced briefs for their ideas as well as videos. Their efforts were then assessed by a panel of experts, which I was delighted to join, along with the following:


  • Barry Whitaker, Vice-Chairman, The Bradford Textile Society.
  • Farnaz Khan, managing director of Eresponse Media Ltd and 8London (International) Ltd, founder of Fit Britches, award-winning entrepreneur.
  • Malcolm Jarvis, Board member of the Bradford Textile Society.
  • Aicha Bahij, University of Bradford Students Union ethics, environment and welfare officer.
  • Helen Farrar, Textile Archive, Bradford College.
  • Hannah Lamb, lecturer at Bradford School of Arts & Media, where she teaches on BA programmes in Textile and Surface Design. Hannah is also a practicing textile artist with a studio in Saltaire, and a member of the 62 Group of textile artists who exhibits nationally (check out her website:
  • Tami Stewart, Printed Textile Lecturer, Bradford College.
  • Christos Kalantaridis, professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the School of Management, currently leads the Bradford Research in Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship (BRITE) Lab.

Photos from the challenge (courtesy of Maarja Hallik) are available here.
A number of videos from the event are available to view on Youtube and the link is here.

The WINNER was TEAM A with their innovative material Ramie+. It was a tough competition and all teams were really good! The winning team was recognised by Bradford Textile Society’s vice chairman Barry Whitaker with a plaque, and will enjoy a meal sponsored by Forsters Bistro.

This forms part of a much wider series of events and initiatives surrounding textiles in Bradford and the initiative is to continue with all the departments and bodies who took part in this event.

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