Leeds shares massive research and development boost for UK’s creative industries


A new multi-million pound research project to boost creative innovation in the textile and fashion industry is being spearheaded by the University of Leeds.

The £5.4m Future Fashion Factory project will explore and develop new digital technologies to help improve high value, luxury design processes. 

From concept to the clothes rail 

Aiming to transform the fashion industry’s capacity, new digital technologies will be developed to increase productivity, shrink design process lead times, lower costs, and importantly, reduce waste.

Partners of the project include Yorkshire Textiles, the Royal College of Art, Burberry, Wools of New Zealand, Abraham Moon & Sons, The Textile Centre of Excellence, Camira and the British Fashion Council.

It will be led by Stephen Russell, Professor of Textile Materials and Technology in the University’s School of Design.

He said: "The vision is to transform the UK industry’s capacity for new product innovation, and to reduce lead times and waste. This will be done through the convergence of new digital and textile technologies within the fashion design process.

"Collaborative research and development by creative companies across the supply chain is fundamental to ensuring future growth, and harnessing UK design and manufacturing assets is central to our strategy."

Unprecedented investment

The multi-million pound investment is one of several Creative Industries Clusters Programmes announced today by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via the Government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Worth more than £92bn to the UK economy, creative industries exports an estimated £46bn in goods and services each year.

The investment aims to create even more jobs, develop talents and drive the growth of companies, products and experiences that can be marketed around the world. 

Pioneering partnerships between industry and universities are a huge vote of confidence for a sector vital to the future prosperity of the UK

Professor Andrew Thompson, AHRC Executive Chair

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “Combining world-class arts and humanities researchers with our globally renowned creative industries will underpin growth in this vibrant and rapidly expanding sector within the UK economy. 

“These pioneering partnerships between industry and universities are providing a huge vote of confidence for a sector that is vital to the future prosperity of the UK.”

Yorkshire and textiles

Nationwide, the fashion design industry contributes £28bn to the economy, with a growing workforce of nearly 900,000 – making it one of the largest creative industries in the country.

Yorkshire is a UK centre for design and manufacturing of high value textiles – fabric made here is in high international demand, and finds its way in to some of the world’s most prestigious luxury branded products.

Many of this region’s textile manufacturers are now exporting more than 65% of what they produce.

New fashion design programmes will also be created for undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers at Leeds.

Industrial apprenticeship programmes are also being developed to address a skills gap in the industry for designers who can combine their art, design, science and technology skills.

Further information

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation, funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: archaeology, area studies, the creative and performing arts, design, digital content, heritage, history, languages, philosophy and much more. This financial year we will spend approximately £98 million on research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK, but contributes to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund was created to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the government’s Industrial Strategy, with investment earmarked for technologies where the UK can build on its world-leading strengths and help innovative businesses to tap into large and growing global markets, as well as the industries of the future. The fund is being administered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the leadership of its Chief Executive Sir Mark Walport. It will play a key role in strengthening the UK’s competitiveness through the Industrial Strategy.