H&M Foundation will allocate another EUR1m to five innovations that can reinvent the fashion industry

H&M Foundation will allocate another EUR1m to five innovations that can reinvent the fashion industry

Clothing made of citrus by-products, microbes that digest waste polyester, and an online marketplace for textile leftovers were some of the disruptive ideas that shared the first EUR1m (US$1.1m) Global Change Award last year – and now the non-profit H&M Foundation is looking for the next tranche of innovations to reinvent the fashion industry.

The initiative from the charitable arm of global fashion retailer H&M is aimed at spurring ideas to accelerate the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry.

Last year the first Global Change Award received more than 2,700 applications from 112 countries, with an expert panel identifying the best innovations and an online public vote deciding how to share the EUR1m grant between the five winners.

"After seeing so many fantastic innovations from around the world with the potential to transform the fashion industry, we have been very eager to open up the next round of the Global Change Award," says Karl-Johan Persson, board member of the H&M Foundation and CEO of H&M.

This year the aim is to encourage ideas with a broader scope than recycling, with three categories open for applications:

  • Circular business models covering ideas on how to reuse, repair, share, digitalise or extend the life of products;
  • Circular materials initiating ideas for new fibres, recycling techniques and leather substitutes; and
  • Circular processes aiming to find new methods around chemicals, water and dyeing, as well as 3D printing, demand-driven manufacturing and more.

Besides the grant, the winners also get access to a one-year Innovation Accelerator organised by the H&M Foundation, in partnership with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. It is designed to help ensure the innovations can stand on their own as quickly as possible, and to maximise their impact on the industry.

By catalysing green, truly ground-breaking ideas, the Global Change Award takes on one of the biggest challenges facing today's fashion industry – creating fashion for a growing population, while improving its impact on the environment.

The aim is to speed up this process for the entire fashion industry, and neither the H&M Foundation nor H&M itself take any equity or intellectual property rights in the innovations.

The group has also issued an update on the progress so far by last year's winners:

  • Make waste-cotton new – Conversion of waste-cotton into new textile (Finland): Successfully completed trials for a scalable solvent recycling strategy needed for further upscaling. Started to develop a prototype product from cotton waste.
  • The Polyester Digester – Using microbes to recycle waste polyester textile (US): Securing partnerships with major polyester producer and chemical companies to test technology and improve cost efficiency versus virgin materials.
  • 100 percent citrus – Creating new textile out of citrus by-products (Italy): Expanded the R&D team with key competencies and working with major brands to assess fibre quality for large scale commercial collaborations.
  • An online market for textile leftovers – A marketplace for upcycling production spill (Estonia): Developed a prototype of technology to prove the concept and value proposition for both brands and factories. Launched a pilot in China in June 2016.
  • Growing textile fibre under water – Utilising algae to make renewable textile (The Netherlands): Invited by the local government in Nanjing to the City Expo to proceed with talks on launching a pilot project in China. The mutual aim is to find a "playground" for the algae project to start a miniature supply chain as a show case in 2017.

Sustainable textile innovations win $1m from H&M Foundation