Vision for circular fashion and textiles
NERC, Innovate UK and AHRC have built a strong coalition with key representatives from industry, government departments and the third sector to co-produce a 10-year vision for circular fashion and textiles.
This vision aims to keep the UK at the forefront of the global fashion and textiles industry through:
- delivering sustainable textile and clothing manufacturing
- informing circular business models
- developing recycling infrastructure
- innovating novel technologies
- embedding green growth
- fostering a diverse and future-proof workforce
As a step towards fulfilling UKRI’s 10-year vision, AHRC, Innovate UK and NERC have coalesced funding and resources to build a 2-year £15 million trilateral programme on circular fashion and textiles.
This programme will be critical in developing this area of research and meeting the goal of transforming the fashion and textiles sector to adopt economically viable and scalable circular models by 2032. Doing this will allow net zero targets to be met for this sector before 2050.
A big challenge identified within the vision for the fashion and textiles industry that this funding opportunity seeks to address, is the need to establish standardised and agreed data that can inform decision making processes. For this to be achievable a standardised framework needs to be developed that brings together data sets into one place through prioritisation and collaboration with key stakeholders from across the relevant sectors.
This NetworkPlus funding opportunity is one of several that will sit under the broader umbrella of the circular fashion and textiles programme.
The NetworkPlus will embed research into the development of solutions that will support the fashion and textiles sector to reform and transform to protect and restore the environment. It will bring the right expertise together from across the UK to begin to establish environmental and design baselines, standards and principles. These will be necessary to inform and assess future innovations and solutions, underpinning potential future phases of research and innovation.
NERC, AHRC and Innovate UK will invest up to £6 million in 3 sub-networks which will collectively form one larger cross-disciplinary NetworkPlus. The NetworkPlus will bring together a diverse community of relevant researchers and stakeholders from across the fashion and textiles sectors.
Through the 3 funded sub-networks it will create and run activities and fund small research projects that will help to understand and drive the fashion industry towards sustainable and responsible practices.
The 3 sub-networks will work together to build a community and bridge the gap between different processes across the fashion and textiles sectors, such as:
- researchers in material cultures and textiles
- market researchers
- environmental scientists
The sub-networks will bring together expertise and innovation to address 3 challenges (1 addressing each challenge):
- improvement of data collation, analysis and assessment:
- bring together, generate and contextualise relevant environmental, cultural, behavioural, social, economic and other data to understand how current design, manufacturing, purchasing, use and discard behaviour impacts on the environment
- identifying gaps and barriers around data access, collection, and curation
- integration of environmental data and modelling to pre-empt and prevent future environmental harms resulting from new materials and approaches
- make data generated and linked openly available and accessible to others
- start to establish research-validated baselines:
- to understand current baselines for fashion and textiles, start to identify where they are fit for purpose and where improvements can be made
- to measure progress and impact of future innovations on the environment and inform sustainable decision-making
- to generate environmental-science informed standards and common understanding, filling the gap created by uncertainty around the accuracy of the Higgs index for sustainability
- determine target areas for environmental improvement with the greatest impact potential, outlining evidence-based standards and key performance indicators
- create broad and interdisciplinary evidence base for improving the sustainability of design, manufacturing and purchasing behaviours
- pilot approaches to nurture interdisciplinary skills and the breaking down of different disciplinary silos
- understanding and integrating the cultures and behaviours of all stakeholders in the fashion ecosystem from producers to consumers
- provide educational or skills interventions at a community or tertiary level to encourage consumers to think critically about their fashion choices and engage with debates on sustainability, garment care and recycling more generally
- identifying skills gaps and shortages within the research community and industry so these can be improved
- environmental impact and circularity:
- strengthen understanding of impacts on the environment of alternative chemical and manufacturing processes (for example, how fibers and chemicals interact within the environment)
- facilitate measures and understanding that will help address pollution and toxicity across the supply chain
- develop better understanding and approaches to identify and avoid unintended consequences of circular strategies
- develop recommendations for communicating environmental impact and new technologies to consumers
- help develop narratives to understand current attitudes and help move toward cultural change
- provide legal, ethical and regulatory research to underpin the move toward the circular fashion model
- develop understanding of the potential of design led innovation and of embedding circularity at the initial stages of design
- provide a cultural understanding of the intangible heritage which underpins many of our highly valued craft or traditional industries
- provide an understanding of regional and place-based aspects of access to certain skillsets and infrastructures which are valued and required by fashion sectors
We expect that successful sub-network awards will bring together relevant researchers and stakeholders that cross multiple research council boundaries, to address specific research questions.
Applications for sub-network awards should set out a clear strategy and vision for their sub-network. The application should explain how it will approach working with the other sub-networks to addresses the broader programme aims to keep the UK at the forefront of the global fashion and textiles industry.
You are encouraged to be innovative in the kinds of user engagement, communications and knowledge exchange or impact generation activities that are planned as part of the network activities. As well as academic representation, networks should include a range of non-academic representatives where appropriate for example, from policy organisations, third sector and industry.
Sub-networks are expected to take an open and inclusive approach and to grow and evolve over the lifetime of the award. We would expect applications for sub-network awards to include a number of different research organisations from across the UK. However applications based within one institution will be considered where a strong argument can be made for the specific expertise that particular research organisation holds, and the added value of that model.
To aid successful collaboration between the sub-networks and establish the NetworkPlus, a programme coordination team will be formed.
Shortly after awards are made UKRI will convene a workshop bringing together the successful sub-network teams. During this workshop they will discuss how to develop their individual project plans to incorporate the collaboration needed between them throughout their duration to meet the wider aims of the NetworkPlus.
They will collectively apply for an additional £1.2 million (80% FEC) to form the programme coordination team, which will be comprised of at least 1 member from each sub-network’s core team.
The total funding available is £6 million.
We expect to fund 3 cross-disciplinary awards (one addressing each challenge) that will form one larger NetworkPlus and will collectively cover the breadth of research challenges listed above.
The sub-networks will be expected to share knowledge and expertise and to work collaboratively in order to successfully address the co-dependent aspects of their challenges, and fulfill the broader aims of the NetworkPlus.
The FEC of each sub-network can be up to £2 million.
A further £1.2 million will be available to the successful applicants for cross NetworkPlus activities and the formation of a programme coordination team in a separate closed funding opportunity.
NERC will fund 80% FEC for UK organisations:
- directly incurred costs such as staff payroll, travel and subsistence, and consumables
- directly allocated costs such as investigators’ salaries, estates costs and shared resources
- indirect costs such as research organisation administration
UK equipment is funded at 50% FEC.
No associated studentships can be requested under this funding opportunity.
Eligible international co-investigator costs (under the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) or Norway agreement) are funded at 100% for eligible direct costs. They can be a maximum of 30% of the FEC value for all international costs.
For eligible international co-investigators, we will fund:
- co-investigator salaries
- directly incurred (DI) costs (for example, travel and subsistence, consumables)
- research assistants
We will not fund:
- estates and other indirect costs
- capital costs
- equipment over £10,000 (anything under £10,000 can be requested under DI costs)
Costs associated with any international co-investigators should be entered as an exception and using a specific format: The University of X, Country: X, Travel and Subsistence; 4 x flights to partners.
An example of how an international partnership may be funded
||Funding if successful
|UK projects costs (funded at 80%)
||£4 million (at 100% FEC)
|UK equipment (funded at 50%)
||£10,000 (at 100% FEC)
|IIASA or Norway co-investigator costs (funded at 100%)
||£700,000 (at 100% direct costs)
NetworkPlus ‘plus’ funds
Each sub-network will set aside at least 30% to 40% of their budget as ‘plus’ funds that can be used for organising activities open to the whole research community throughout the period of the award. These activities are expected to include the funding of small research projects, but could also include:
- running seminars, webinars and lectures
- convening expert working groups, round tables
- running workshops
- placements, discipline hopping or exchanges
- running sandpits
- skills training sessions
It is expected that the application process for ’plus’ funded activities will be open and transparent. It will allow for applicants from outside of the network membership to participate, thereby drawing more people into the community and broadening its impact and reach.
The ‘plus’ element of the NetworkPlus will be allocated at 80% FEC as normal. The flexible fund should be clearly named as such in the application costings. Therefore, in the application the funds for this flexible fund pot will appear as supported at 80% FEC.
Until the funds are distributed the host organisation is effectively underwriting the 20% contribution. When distributed the 20% contribution requirement passes from the host organisation to the organisation receiving the flexible funding. This is the responsibility of the NetworkPlus to manage.
Therefore, there is no net cost to the host organisation, as long as the funding is awarded. For example: a £20,000 (100% FEC) project example: £16,000 (80% FEC) is given to the host from UKRI, then £16,000 given out from the host to the organisation awarded the flexible fund project.
Funding is available for up to 24 months.
Through our funding, we want to make a positive contribution to society and the environment. We will achieve this through research outcomes and the way in which research is conducted.
If you are successful, you will need to adopt responsible research practices, as set out in UKRI’s responsible research policy and the NERC responsible business statement.
Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Specifically, this covers:
- the natural environment
- the local community
- diversity and inclusion
Grant holders should consider responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole. Further, grant holders should take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.
UKRI (NERC, AHRC and Innovate UK) held a programme webinar for potential applicants on 30 March 2023. This enabled applicants to learn more about:
- background to the programme
- the funding opportunity
Watch a recording of the webinar (passcode: r7hz*.ti)