A £1.5m Government-backed project to breathe new life into the UK's clothing and textile industry is launching a programme of work for 2001.

A steering group of the UK's top retailing and clothing manufacturers has already met twice and will meet again on February 7 to pinpoint the 10 projects for this year.

And the project, unveiled by Textiles Minister, Patricia Hewitt, has met with such a warm response from the industry, that another four companies have signed up to take part.

Worsted textile firm, Fred Ambler, shirt manufacturer, Glenaden, menswear firm, HE & FJ Brown and Henry Lloyd outerwear have all come forward to take part.

The Government hopes that the Clothing and Textile Forum will help create industry champions and find a long-term solution to global competitive pressures.

Project director, Ken Watson, said: "The meetings have been well attended by chief executives of clothing and textile companies, the demands on whose time are extremely great.

"The enthusiasm is wonderful and we will now go forward this year with a great deal of optimism at tackling the issues highest on the list."

The Government wants to create excellence in the supply chain and improve its efficiency and effectiveness and they plan to use IT, in particular e-commerce, to achieve this.

The knock-on effects are expected to be seen in increased project availability, flexibility, innovation, time to market, stock turn and work in progress, as well as reduced lead times.

Current steering group members include Freemans, Littlewoods, House of Fraser, GUS and Allders. February's meeting is being hosted by GUS in Manchester. 

By Deborah Bowyer