MDT – Smart Textiles

Academic leader: Lieva Van Langenhove, Ghent University (Belgium), Lieva.vanlangenhove@ugent.be

Industrial co-leader: Vera De Glas, Sioen (Belgium), vera.deglas@sioen.be

The status of smart textiles is that few products have made it to the market. Some are near to market, but most are in the phase of a prototype/ demo, lab concept or even an idea.

Potential markets are very broad. Medical and protection were addressed initially but they turned out to be not easily accessible due to clinical validation and regulation issues. Applications to be looked at are replacing existing products (eg. heart monitoring during sports), early adopters (eg. gaming) and products with immaterial value.

Smart textile is a highly multidisciplinary theme from the point of view of scientific disciplines, economic aspects (marketing, IPR, investors) and implementation (Safety and health, life cycle analysis, social aspects)

Major hurdles are lack of funds and cooperation, duplication of work, business aspects and most of all: find structure in huge possibilities

Therefore this MDT decided to focus on establishing a good methodology.

The starting point are consumers, needs and technology. From this 4 themes have been identified: healthy sleep, elderly, youngster and heating. Through a variety of actions ideas are being collected for each of these themes. These ideas are being explored further in terms of sources for funding, potential industrial partners, status of technology etc.

Demonstrators and prototypes are of particular importance for exploring the technology and its constraints as well as getting feedback from end users. New business models may be required too. Important criteria are who are the partners to be involved and the added value of the textile solution.

This approach should lead to successful market introduction and profitable cases.

For now conclusions are:

  • The market potential is very big particularly for SME’s. considering the limited length of time span of SME’s the readiness level of technology should be high and proof of concept is needed
  • There might be applications we don’t think of
  • It would be worthwile bringing together people who could contribute to deployment of the dieas such as students, unemployed elderly people etc. A coordination action or specific support action could offer the necessary scale for this. Such a network can collect ideas from students and provide support in prototype manufacturing. Companies can give a quick appreciation of such ideas.
  • AUTEX and TEXTRANET must be asked to look for EU proposals that were ranked high on potential economic impact but not funded. We should try to recycle them and make them better