C-Tech Innovation Ltd is an integrated research, process development and equipment supplier based in Chester, with specialisms in electrochemical engineering and advanced thermal processing.
Several years ago, before the current prominence of the topic, a consortium including C-Tech identified an opportunity relating to the reduction of plastic waste and the environmental impact of clothing. The resultant technology, called “wear2”, is now reaching manufacturing fruition, being scaled across Europe, and integrated into the value chains of a number of clothing suppliers.
The wear2 technology grew from recognising an opportunity to de-brand corporate clothing and realise value from the 16 million items disposed of each year in the UK. For branding and security reasons, organisations typically do not wish their old corporate clothing to be reused outside their organisation. At best, these garments are shredded into low-grade, low-value fibre with limited end uses. At worst, they are incinerated or landfilled.
In order to realise the technology’s potential, the development of the business case was critical and this involved investigating how to change procurement practices to ensure that value is properly accrued in the supply chain.
KTN’s manufacturing team helped identify appropriate funding to help develop the technology and reviewed the application to help secure a grant from Innovate UK. KTN was instrumental in helping build the consortium, in particular helping to secure the engagement of companies in the supply chain that might not usually be aware of collaboration opportunities, and finding a waste processing company that was able to inform solutions to the challenges of disassembling and recovering value from discarded clothing.
The consortium included the University of Leeds, George at Asda, Oxfam Waste Savers, Royal Mail Group Limited, Aestiva Ltd and Madiera UK Ltd. SUSCORP ultimately developed a new patented process capable of selectively separating seams in textiles, without damaging the surrounding fabric. This was given the brand name “wear2”.
Further to the SUSCORP project the consortium sought partners to commercialise the technology through a licensing model. A license holder in the Netherlands then trialled a range of corporate clothing using wear2 technology. Recognising great promise, and hence looking for more control, ultimately they decided they wanted to purchase the intellectual property and set up a new venture called Wear2-Go. C-Tech Innovation thus saw a direct financial return from this sale and will also continue, on an ongoing basis, to derive revenues from providing the equipment & technical support that enables the process. C-Tech estimate that over a 5 year period they will realise two or three times their internal investment. In the longer term, new and emerging legislative drivers mean that the technology could stand to capture a significant proportion of the global corporate clothing market.
- KTN helped identify appropriate funding from Innovate UK to help develop the technology
- KTN introduced C-Tech to partners and suppliers who were instrumental in developing the consortium necessary to create the solutions.
“It’s great to see the wear2 technology reaching manufacturing fruition. KTN was a key part of that journey, helping us in particular to find the funding and partners that enabled a better understanding of the end users. KTN is a useful and practical resource for knowledge on markets and active partners for innovation. The KTN’s knowledge on the innovation funding landscape is excellent and the reasonable, informed and unbiased opinion of all of KTN’s staff is a valuable resource for anyone looking to engage in innovation funding or collaboration in the UK” – Rob Bell, Technical director, C-Tech Innovation ltd.