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Clothworkers’ gift will create the fabrics of the future

Clothworkers’ gift will create the fabrics of the future

A £1.75m grant to the University of Leeds is helping to create new healthcare products which will benefit millions of people.

The grant from the Clothworkers' Foundation has funded new research equipment, support for postgraduate students – and enabled the appointment of a new Professor to help drive this vital research.

The University is already renowned for its work in this area, but the appointment of Chris Carr represents a significant new addition to the team working in The Clothworkers' Centre for Textile Materials Innovation for Healthcare. He has moved from the University of Manchester where he was Professor of Textile Science and Technology.

Leeds research into nonwoven textiles is meeting major demands – new filters to remove impurities from blood to enable safer transfusions; better continence management and ostomy products; intelligent dressings capable of improving the healing rates of chronic wounds, and products to fight Healthcare Associated Infections.

The close working relationship with colleagues in medicine and healthcare gives Leeds a serious head-start in developing the right textile products and bringing them to market.

"What really excites me is that there is this two-way flow of information,” Prof Carr explains. "Clinicians here work with patients on a daily basis and can tell us exactly what patients need – what works and what doesn't.”

Leeds's pre-eminence in nonwoven fabric technology makes the University a natural home for this work: "The facilities and expertise here allow us to create nonwoven fabrics containing very small fibres of just 50 nanometres across. These permeable, breathable fabrics can provide an antimicrobial surface in contact with the skin, or be configured to deliver chemistry to tackle really difficult deep sores and wounds, and create the right interface for tissue regeneration and repair.”

Nonwovens also have the capability to "capture” biological fluid and counteract unwelcome odours, making for more effective products that can help sufferers overcome the problem of social withdrawal associated with incontinence. By creating prototypes with the appropriate engineering design and making new product concepts available for commercial development, Leeds is having a real impact on the health of millions of people and meeting demand in a growing sector worth billions worldwide.

Textiles have been a key feature of the University since its earliest days. The Yorkshire College of Science was founded in 1874, largely as a result of concerns in the wool and textile industries that the rapid development of new technologies in Europe posed a threat to the local cloth trade. The College was one of a number of establishments which came together to found the University of Leeds in 1904.

Though the trade in cloth is no longer a keystone of the Yorkshire economy, the University's spinout Nonwovens Innovation and Research Institute has product development expertise and a track record unrivalled in the UK. Its Surfaceskins™ technology, which brings anti-bacterial protection to hospitals and clinics, is just one example of a product with the potential to make a major impact.

Robin Booth, Master of the Clothworkers' Company said "We are delighted to be able to make this grant to the University.  The University of Leeds is the UK leader in academic research and teaching of textiles, and the establishment of the new Centre builds on this strength.  We have a high regard for Steve Russell and Chris Carr, and are confident that their research will have a major impact in the field of medical textiles.”

Mr Booth's family company, Henry Booth and Sons of Gildersome, West Yorkshire, first engaged in cloth manufacturing in 1806 and only ceased trading in 1987.

This grant re-affirms a tradition of support for Leeds which stretches back to Victorian times. Clothworkers Court, a red-brick courtyard in the heart of campus, and the University's magnificent Clothworkers' Centenary Concert Hall recall earlier donations.

Welcoming Prof Carr to Leeds, Stephen Russell, Professor of Textile Materials and Technology, said: "I've known Chris for some time and it is quite a coup to be able to bring him here. His work in surface chemistry and fibre properties perfectly complements what we are doing and I am so grateful to the Clothworkers' Company for the gift which has made this possible.”

Further information:

For further information and requests to interview Professors Carr and Russell, please contact Simon Jenkins, University of Leeds, tel: 0113 3437231, mob: 07791 333229, email: s.jenkins@leeds.ac.uk.

A photograph of Professor Carr is available on request.

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