Innovate 2021: Textile Innovation Week and the Innovate Summit, has been hailed a great success by innovators, exhibitors and visitors across the globe. The live event has now drawn to a close.

The event had around 60 exhibitors and over 100 live streams, 86% of which were exhibitor live streams. Exhibitors included Sun Chemical, DuPont, AFFOA, ITMA, Oerlikon, Velcro, Epson, Ricoh, Polygiene, Evonik, Kornit Digital and Roland DG.
A recurring theme throughout the textile & apparel industry, sustainability was a primary topic of conversation through the Summit. Delegates heard a keynote presentation from Xu Yingxin, vice president, China National Textile & Apparel Council, on how China’s textile & apparel sector aims to mitigate climate change. For European policy, we heard from Dirk Vantyghem, director general, Euratex, who discussed a new more sustainable framework for the European textile & apparel industry. On the third and final day of the event, a panel of materials specialists (for both man-made and natural fibres), hosted by Friedrich Weninger, managing director, Dornbirn Global Fiber Congress discussed the desperate need for enhanced sustainability in the fibres market arguing that this must come from putting differences and competition aside and collaborating.
Collaboration was discussed as a necessity for a more sustainable textile & apparel industry by many at the Summit. Not only that, but it's also necessary for future innovation, too. For example, Leeds City Region in the UK and India are collaborating to ensure greater innovation throughout the textile & apparel industry, as well as in a bid to close the growing skills gap. What’s more, a fireside chat from supply chain technology company QIMA discussed how data and transparency are key to futureproofing supply chains but also, that supplier and buyer relationships are becoming more entrenched. The discussion concluded that we must work together to ensure our supply chains are streamlined and more able to handle disruption, such as that at the beginning of 2019, when the Covid pandemic broke out.
Industry 4.0
Digitalisation, not surprisingly, was also a recurring theme. In particular, how Covid accelerated digitalisation was assessed (for example, in a panel session hosted by the ITMF and others) as well as how it can help in futureproofing supply chains by providing tools for authentication – as discussed by Ian Cronin, Community Curator at the World Economic Forum – transparency and traceability. It is thought that digitising processes and technologies is enabling the movement of manufacturing back to developed economies and although there was hope among speakers that this movement remains strong, it is appreciated that these markets cannot compete with the backward linkages and manpower of China. Additionally, digitalisation, it was discussed, can be leveraged to improve sustainability strategies and supply chain resilience (as mentioned by Joshua Hinkel, partner, Bain & Company in a keynote presentation). However, digitalisation also means the industry requires a new set of skills.
Skills gap
As well as part of addressing the need for collaboration, is collaborating to reduce the industry’s skills gap. The Summit showed that the skills gap is not just prevalent in the US and Europe as previously thought but is also a global issue, with large manufacturing nations such as India struggling to find the right skilled workers to meet the demands of the global textile & apparel industry. Every industry, from fibres to printing, is suffering from a skills gap. In particular, the nonwovens industry – as discussed in a panel session hosted by David Rousse, president, INDA, is struggling to recruit new talent. This is despite the boom in the nonwovens market, with the growth of medical applications for nonwovens and face masks since the outbreak of the pandemic. With the growing nearshoring trend across the industry, there is the worry that without action, there will be no-one to fulfil the roles, or spark innovation, in this movement.
Show sponsor Ricoh said during the show that the company was so happy that “[the WTiN] team will get an open invitation for Christmas dinner!”
Friedrich Weninger, managing director of exhibitor Dornbirn Global Fiber Congress, said: “It is a great show and the potentials in terms of contacts one could explore are excellent.”
Mike Wang, specialist at innovate exhibitor, Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF), said: “We heard great feedback from our exhibitors regarding how WTiN had invited diverse visitors from the technology industry to participate in this great exhibition.
“Once again, thank you and we look forward to joining your wonderful event next time.”
Mark Jarvis, managing director, WTiN, says: “Innovate 2021 has shown how fruitful and engaging live, virtual events can be. We are honoured to have had so many visitors to Innovate 2021 and, importantly, so many fantastic exhibitors and speakers who have helped to make the platform the rich, engaging space it is today.
“This has made it clear that innovation is key for our industry to thrive – in all areas of the industry – and we plan to do that with Innovate going forward. We are excited for the next Innovate chapter, to be announced soon.”
The event was sponsored by Ricoh and the Innovate Summit was sponsored by Epson.


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