A new initiative has been launched to help European textile and clothing manufacturers and machinery makers target their product developments at the industry's changing needs.

The scheme, called ManuTex, is backed by the European Technology Platform for Assuring the Future of Manufacturing in Europe (Manufuture) and the European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing (Textile ETP).

It wants to support a general move towards high-added value specialty products, the search for new markets for functional textiles, and the move from mass production to customisation - all of which are widely believed to be key to the future of Europe's textile and clothing sector.

ManuTex will set up a permanent collaboration forum between textile/clothing manufacturers and machinery makers, as well as initiate breakthrough research projects between the two sectors.

A ManuTex Coordination Committee will be chaired by Prof Thomas Gries, director of the Institut für Textiltechnik at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany (ITA).

Prof Heinrich Flegel, chairman of Manufuture, said: "The ManuTex initiative is an excellent example of the will of two mutually dependent industrial sectors to defend and extend their global competitive edge through intensified cooperation in research and development at European level."

Mr Dick Hendriks, chairman of the Governing Council of the Textile ETP, added that future strategic shifts will require new manufacturing concepts and consequently new production technologies. "We are confident that both sides will greatly benefit from this collaboration," he said.