The textile and fashion industry is one of the world's biggest climate villains. Now the industry must change. In light of this, the initiative NEST - New Entrepreneurship for a Sustainable Textile industry was created. In spring 2022, NEST will offer a free acceleration process that, like a catapult, will help startups to lift their innovative ideas to solve the problems facing the industry.
The textile and fashion industry's very high environmental impact is linked to a linear and undigitised value chain. Changing this requires innovation and rethinking in every part of the chain, from idea through business development to business. Now NEST is here for Sweden as a nation to take the lead in transforming an industry that has been of great importance to us in the past - and can now be again.
NEST was created by four incubators; Borås INK, eXpression Umeå, Sting and Xplot. It is a national initiative supported by the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova, the industry association TEKO, the Borås School of Textiles and the business community. The aim is to combine the incubators' specialist areas, from textiles to tech, and geographical spread from Umeå in the north to Lund in the south, to identify and develop growth companies with new solutions that can contribute to the transformation needed by industry.
"We need innovation and new companies that do things differently from what we have done before. You can think about new business models, or moving away from the traditional treatments in the wet processes, purely technical challenges that can perhaps be solved with new production techniques, robotisation and AI. But maybe also doing the customer experience in a different way. We may not own all our products in the future without the customer feeling that they are giving something up. I think few feel that it was degraded with the streaming service versus a DVD that they owned before. It could be a solution for our industry as well," says Cecilia Tall, Secretary General of TEKO - Sweden's Textile and Fashion Companies.
NEST gives participating entrepreneurs access to a cross-sector network and niche expertise. It's a free, intensive programme that hopes to catapult participants to launch and commercialise their product or service faster and at lower risk.
Applications for the programme open on 7 February. Entrepreneurs accepted to NEST will receive business development and participate in boot camps hosted by industry experts and researchers. The programme concludes with a pitch event where the winners can move on to an incubation process with continued support from all incubators, the possibility of a verification grant of up to €300,000 and the chance to win a scholarship from TEKO.
Here's what the people behind NEST have to say:
"The main challenge for innovative solutions developed to transform to a sustainable textile and fashion industry is that the corporate organisation requires cross-industry skills. The intention of NEST is to enable this by bringing together excellence from multiple industries such as technology platforms, cultural industries and retail and energy supply. I look forward with great anticipation to working with our partners to help startups with promising business ideas make a difference to the planet and people through business development," says programme manager Simon Hjelte, business developer at Borås INK.
"We have high expectations for the impact of being able to offer business development excellence from four innovation supporters to help solve the sustainability challenges facing the textile & fashion industry. In this way we can better tailor the support to the needs of the companies and create a more effective business support", Oskar Riby, Business Development Manager eXpression Umeå.
"Despite the challenges facing the industry, at Sting we see the bubbling of new, innovative technology and entrepreneurs who really want to make a difference. We've been helping Swedish climate innovations reach the world for 20 years. Now we look forward to hooking arms with Borås INK, eXpression Umeå and Xplot to help entrepreneurs across the country turn their innovations into international growth companies." Pär Hedberg, CEO of Sting
"It feels incredibly positive for us at xPlot, together with the other actors in NEST, to offer entrepreneurs a fast track to the entire country's collective expertise and network in fashion and textiles. The fashion industry has a complex and long value chain where we need to mix traditional knowledge and new cutting-edge knowledge in areas such as materials research, industry 5.0, future commerce, sustainable business models and circular material flows. We have extensive experience in acceleration and cross innovation processes in creative industries and see NEST as a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to rapidly develop their business idea wherever they are in the value chain," Lars Mattiasson, CEO of xPlot.