The new Burberry Material Futures Research Group – the first of its kind – is supported by a GBP3m (US$3.8m) boost from the brands Burberry Foundation

The new Burberry Material Futures Research Group – the first of its kind – is supported by a GBP3m (US$3.8m) boost from the brand's Burberry Foundation

UK luxury fashion group Burberry has partnered with the Royal College of Art (RCA) on a new research group designed to develop more sustainable materials, transform consumer experience and advance manufacturing, in line with Burberry's new five-year responsibility agenda.

The new Burberry Material Futures Research Group – the first of its kind – is supported by a GBP3m (US$3.8m) boost from independent charity the Burberry Foundation and will be the first STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) research centre at a traditional art and design university.

Established in line with the brand's new responsibility agenda, the grant also includes GBP750,000 to expand the existing Burberry Design Scholarship at the RCA, enabling more students from the UK and EU to reach their full potential regardless of their financial circumstances.

The mission of the Burberry Foundation is to take a long-term approach to promoting the STEAM agenda, tackling educational inequality, reducing waste and supporting social and economic development. The grant to the Royal College of Art is the first in a series to be announced during 2017.

Meanwhile, the grants are also in line with Burberry's new responsibility agenda. The agenda marks a "significant" step change in the company's approach to responsibility issues and will focus on three ambitious goals over the next five years:

  • Support 1m people in the communities that sustain Burberry's business and the wider luxury industry;
  • Ensure 100% of Burberry's products have at least one element that drives positive change; 
  • Invent new approaches to revaluing waste created in the production of luxury goods, whilst becoming carbon neutral in its own operations.

In designing its responsibility agenda, Burberry said it focused on specific needs that are closely linked to, or a direct impact of, the footprint of the industry or the company itself. The grant from the Burberry Foundation to establish the Burberry Material Futures Research Group complements Burberry's existing relationship with the RCA and their shared interest in material science and technological innovation, it adds.

"I am thrilled that the Burberry Foundation can support the establishment of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group at the Royal College of Art," says Christopher Bailey, a trustee of the Burberry Foundation, CCO and CEO of Burberry. "The group will cover a broad scope of work, from researching and developing more innovative sustainable materials to designing new manufacturing methods, as well as nurturing and supporting even more British-trained design talent."

The group will act as a "virtual" centre until it moves to a permanent home in 2020 at the new RCA campus and will pave the way for the establishment of the future RCA Materials Science Research Centre. Its activities will be led by the Burberry chair of material futures, who will also be the academic lead of the Material Science Research Centre and the first industry-named chair post at the College.

"The establishment of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group is an exciting step in incorporating the future of materials science into our research and teaching," adds Dr Paul Thompson, rector of the Royal College of Art. "From its founding days, Burberry has pioneered high-performance materials, becoming one of Britain's most successful and dynamic global companies. Over the last six years the Burberry Design Scholarships have been invaluable in supporting students, and the expansion of these scholarships will ensure the Royal College of Art can continue to generate outstanding creative talent in the UK."