The SmartX open collaboration platform and the cross-sectoral and cross-cultural matchmaking also help to create a common language, understanding and perception. The platform presents the needs, possibilities and limits of the collaborating sectors but also of wider stakeholders (e.g. data security, standardisation), to simplify the initiation of joint innovation. One key mechanism is networking of cluster organisations, which traditionally have a broader view of technical and economic aspects, and often know how to ‘translate’ between different sectors.
A LONG-TERM COLLABORATIVE PLATFORM AND PLAYGROUND FOR SMART TEXTILES PROFESSIONALS
The SmartX community platform and innovation eco-system will be maintained and further built out after project end in April 2022. SmartX Coordinator Textile ETP is currently running a Smart Textile Innovation Masterclass building a European Knowledge Community among smart textile innovation practitioners from industry and applied research. The Masterclass combines a 15-months curriculum of monthly interactive webinars organised in 7 modules with a content sharing platform available to all programme subscribers. From 2022 onwards, the SmartX ecosystem will be combined with this Knowledge Community to create a single reference point for all matters related to Smart Textiles innovation in Europe this will include regular webinars and physical events, brokerage and matchmaking activities and publications.
- 3 HIGH-POTENTIAL END MARKETS SmartX focuses on 3 end applications for smart textiles which offer a sheer endless number of attractive high value niches for a large number of SMEs across Europe. In each of them the EU is already an innovation leader:
Protective wear (professional and recreational): A whole new set of functions, like monitoring, communication, better protection will be enabled, not only on protective wear for professional use (as it is a domain in which European manufacturing is leading worldwide) but also in protective wear for recreational applications. Examples: security personnel, workers at off-shore wind mills or firefighters. Spill-over effects into recreational markets such as sports however are significant and are also included in SmartX scope.
Industrial applications: The addition of electronics offers a wealth of options like structural health monitoring (of composites materials), vibration damping, heating/cooling, lighting, smart coatings, energy generation and storage, data communication, processing and storage. Example: intelligent fibre-based envelopes forbuildings, temperature profile monitoring in transport bags, load /movement detection and actuation in automotive seating.
Healthcare and well-being: Potential applications comprise in-shirt electrodes for monitoring of vital parameters, sensors for infection warning in hospital clothing or bedding, controlled release of pharmaceuticals from clothing, local heating and cooling in bandages or orthotics, security and alarm systems in carpets, or work wear for care givers. Especially the opportunity of remote monitoring of patients or people at risk in an unobtrusive and comfortable way in their every-day life environment offers great potential for home care and preventive medicine.
The focus on a potentially very large market that is in a critical breakthrough phase and in which Europe enjoys a privileged early competitive position which must not be lost. Recent growth in wearables, real-time data analytics and services created a market pull for smart textiles, quite a contrast with the technology push of the past. Indeed, not only because of the big data need, there is a demand or at least a wish for ubiquitous sensing and monitoring, by the user as well by industry. Textiles form an ideal means to collect unobtrusively data from people, objects or infrastructures, creating a unique and large market opportunity.
- SHARED VISION
A very promising future
According to various studies the market for smart textiles and wearables is expected to enter an exponential growth phase with estimates ranging from an expected total world market of nearly 1.5 bn US$ in 2021) to almost 3 bn US$ for the European market alone in 2024. (see full article and sources in Resources).The majority of the applications are concentrated in 4 main fields: Protection & Defence, Sports & Fitness, Industrial and Technical Applications (transportation, architecture) and Medical & Healthcare. These markets show a particularly great potential for SMEs to offer customised and niche market solutions with interesting cross-sectoral value chain impact and transfer potential across a broader range of specific applications, providing scale-up opportunities. These new value chains represent a market opportunity of €5.5 billion in 2026. However, in order to realise its full potential for the industry one key issue to solve is to fill the industrial manufacturing capacity gap that exists to meet end market demand for smart textile-based solutions.
How to meet this challenge?
SmartX unites eight clusters, two Research and Technology Organisations (for specific technological assistance) and three innovation support entities (for professional project initiation, implementation and follow-up): together they reach out to over 60,000 SMEs all over Europe to build a dedicated community around SmartX.
This extremely large action range helps SmartX boost smart textiles innovation and develop an end-to-end smart textiles manufacturing value chain in Europe, in order to drive promising prototypes faster to market.
Building a strong sustainable community is the underlying long-term objective of the Programme, to foster interaction and collaboration within the European smart textile industry. A series of focused workshops and online webinars are regularly taking place and allow professionals to gain and share advanced knowledge and state-of-the-art technological solutions. Between November 2021 and March 2022, various events will present the technological innovations achieved by our selected project holders and allow the latter to interact with potential customers, investors, suppliers, and any other kinds of partners they may be looking for.
During the 3-year programme, three calls for funding have been organised to help support up to 40 projects with a total budget of €2.4 million.
A limited number of high-potential innovation projects
- As you can discover on the Funded Project page, SmartX partners have carried out a rigorous selection of a limited number of high-potential innovation projects tackling well-identified bottlenecks in the emerging smart textiles value chain. The involved SMEs are currently provided with a clear value chain framework and a customised multidisciplinary coaching approach. They’re also granted a meaningful direct lump-sum funding amount which can be spent as they need to, on their most critical innovation requirements, provided by whatever knowledge and service provider, which has given sufficient motivation and flexibility to attract the most ambitious and quirky SMEs and start-ups in this fast evolving market.