Swimwear brand Speedo is backing a collaborative research project between two universities that is exploring new technologies for textile processing as well as helping to boost the industry's sustainability.

Postgraduate students from De Montfort University and Loughborough University are investigating the use of enzymes and lasers to colour and pattern fabrics.

De Montfort University said that while the two technologies have both been used in textiles before, their application and potential for use as a creative design tool is unexplored.

Enzyme technology will be developed to give colour and 3D pattern design effects. The techniques used and the effects achieved will be enhanced through the use of lasers, both pre- and post-enzyme treatment and by targeting specific fibres.

In contrast to traditional dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing techniques, the use of enzymes and lasers offers the prospect of substantial reductions in chemical, water and energy use and effluent production.

Some GBP200,000 in funding has been put towards the project by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Speedo, Camira Fabrics and Teresa Green Design are also supporting it with fabric sourcing, design prototyping and concept evaluation. The research is scheduled for completion in 2015.

"This is a good opportunity to bring biotechnology and laser technology together in developing innovative techniques for textile design," said Professor Jinsong Shen, who is coordinating the project.

"This kind of research could make a real difference to the textile industry and its sustainability."