FIREup: Fashion Innovation Research and Enterprise

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Arts London
Department Name: Research Management

Abstract

The UK is the birthplace of some of the world's most creative and innovative designer fashion companies, of which many are small and micro enterprises. These companies, supply chains and intermediaries constitute the UK designer fashion industry and consist of a poorly understood complex web of interactions. The British Fashion Council has identified a number of issues that is preventing the industry from reaching its full growth potential. These challenges include lack of a formal R&D culture across the industry, lack of knowledge and contacts within the designer fashion industry and weak knowledge exchange and open innovation practices.

The FIREup project will address these issues. Specifically, FIREup will focus on the creation of a prototype digital platform that will research new models of knowledge exchange (KE) for the industry and foster open innovation. The platform will create: an accessible knowledge base for academic/B-2-B interactions, integrate research methodologies into the industry creating new collaborations between science and design disciplines, and support the industry to reduce its carbon footprint by sharing best practice.

The platform will be a research tool that delivers quantitative data identifying knowledge and asset flows. It will also be used to catalyse research collaborations linked to funding calls. New participants will register information about themselves that will provide valuable insight into research needs, cluster formations, existing networks & collaborations and KE models.

Sandpits will shape open research calls to test & validate the platform. Project partners & SMEs will deliver research supported by a voucher (funded from FIREup). Outcomes of research projects will be presented as case studies, showcasing the platform and also used for dissemination activities. The platform will be online, making the data readily accessible to registered participants. It will be easily updateable to take account of rapid changes within the industry.

FIREup will draw upon established networks and existing alumni from fashion focused UK HEIs to ensure initial rapid project development. The University of the Arts London (UAL) will lead the FIREup Project leveraging the social capital vested within alumni networks to engage with small businesses within this sector, particularly those that do not access or take advantage of new research developments.

Research will be practice-led and respond to the need for KE between industry and the academia, including:

- Relationship-building opportunities at different levels within the industry, helping SMEs to access the wider designer fashion ecosystem in order to promote their products, access new contacts and tap into academic/entrepreneurial expertise.

- Exploring research and design processes in academia and industry and how new collaborations between science & textile disciplines can be developed.

- Building communication & collaboration platforms, to enhance KE opportunities, develop R&D consortia and provide new research insight.

A multi-disciplinary research team from across UAL and project partners will leverage their significant expertise and social capital to ensure FIREup is a success. The Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) and Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC) will contribute insights into the UK designer fashion economy. Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC) will contribute knowledge/experience of award winning practice-led open innovation approaches to design research. The Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) and Textile Futures Research Centre (TFRC) will contribute knowledge focused on innovation and sustainability. Fashion Design Studio (FDS) will support designer fashion enterprises to adopt new digital technologies.

It is anticipated that the open KE platform has potential for significant beneficial legacy to the designer fashion industry beyond the project duration.

Planned Impact

Data from the digital platform will provide detailed insight into how the designer fashion industry currently operates. This knowledge will help to develop new thinking that will lead to more efficient models of KE that can be implemented, in order to deliver increased collaborative outcomes between academia and industry. Findings from the platform will be shared by online communications within the platform and also by the use of case studies at FIREup workshops and networking events. Capacity will be developed and built by creating new, and sharing existing knowledge, expertise, methods and tools.

Public Sector

- Academia gains valuable insight into how the designer fashion industry functions, obtaining new research insights into industry needs to inform further targeted research bids.

- FIREup results will shape future educational fashion course content. The platform will identify emerging trends and changing needs of the industry and these can be reflected in degree courses,
as they are refreshed.

- Policy makers recognise the importance economically & culturally of a strong UK Fashion Sector. Results from the FIREup project will help shape & influence policy development that supports the
growth and competitiveness of the overall sector.

Private Sector

- Designer fashion enterprises become more knowledgeable of the design fashion ecosystem and are better able to make more informed decisions. The creation of the KE map of the designer fashion
ecosystem helps to reduce market failures due to lack of information that designer fashion enterprises encounter that currently prevents them from making informed decisions.

- CMT units are able to build their networks and use the FIRE platform to identify and engage in new collaborations that lead to new innovations. This will enable a culture of R&D in CMT manufacturing
units and other designer fashion enterprises.

- The FIREup project will implement open research innovations and KE practices within the UK designer fashion industry leading to a cultural change that delivers a 'new breed' of designer fashion SMEs
focused on industrial and cultural innovation.

Wider Public

- The FIREup project has environmental and sustainability goals at the heart of the project. The platform will bring together the designer fashion industry (industry & academia) to share best practice
on tackling environmental and sustainability challenges.

- Reducing the UK designer fashion carbon footprint is a priority. Tackling challenges of offshore garment manufacturing vs. local production, mass customisation, and adopting new materials, will
reduce energy consumption and waste materials, making the industry play its role in reducing carbon footprint and adopting more environmentally sustainable practices.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title 'What is FIREup' and 'FIREup for Designers' 
Description Two short animations developed to communicate in a direct and engaging way the purpose of the FIREup project and web platform, and encourage sign up. The first - What is FIREup - was developed at the start of the project as a general communication to businesses; the second - FIREup for Designers - was developed at a later stage in the project using specially commissioned graphic visualisations from a key workshop we held with designers, and better reflected the ethos of individuality and creativity. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact The project tried out different means of engagement with the designer fashion and textile SME sector - a hard-to-reach group of mainly micro and small companies with little time. The graphic animations have been posted on the web platform via VImeo, and used in presentations of the project to academia and industry. They have been well received within the community and attracted interest in signing up and understanding the reasons for engaging with FIREup. 
URL https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos
 
Title FIREup Catalyst Project 1 - The Textile Collective with Kirsty McDougall 
Description A 3 minute film documenting the rationale and potential significance of the setting up of a new support and development network for London based textile designer working for fashion market. interviews with woven textile designer Kirsty McDougall and FIREup team member Alex McIntosh 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film with its four companions have been disseminated on the FIREup web platform via Vimeo and presentations to academic audiences and serve as case studies to illustrate the potential of small scale funding to open a new space for research and knowledge exchange between fashion academics and SMEs 
URL https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos
 
Title FIREup Catalyst project 2 - Kate Goldsworthy 
Description This 7 minute film documents the results of a project enabling researcher Dr Kate Goldsworthy to develop new textile samples and garment prototypes for a one step closed loop system of fashion production using laser welded polyester. A collaboration with Worn Again , a company dedicated to end of life solutions for textiles, the film features discussion between Nick Ryan and Kate Goldsworthy, interviewed by Sandy Black 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film with its four companions have been publicly disseminated on the FIREup web platform via Vimeo and presentations to academic audiences and serve as case studies for industry and academia to illustrate the potential of small scale funding to open a new space for research and knowledge exchange between fashion academics and SMEs. 
URL https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos
 
Title FIREup Catalyst project 3 - Michelle Lowe-Holder 
Description This 6 minute film documents the initial results of a new collaboration between accessories designer/maker Michelle Lowe-Holder and virtual 3D designer Dr Thomas Makryniotis to realise new prototype bags utilising 3D printing technology - a brand new research and development area for the designer. Both are in discussion about the collaborative process with Sandy Black who also mentored the project 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film with its four companions have been publicly disseminated on the FIREup web platform via Vimeo and presentations to academic audiences and serve as case studies for industry and academia to illustrate the potential of small scale funding to open a new space for research and knowledge exchange between fashion academics and SMEs. 
URL https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos
 
Title FIREup Catalyst project 4 - Christopher Raeburn 
Description This 7 minute film documents the rationale, approach and benefits to the Christopher Raeburn fashion business of the academic collaboration enbled by FIREup funding. This allowed Raeburn to research into methds of accessing brand value through the communication of narratives of sustaianbility and longevity of selected designs. This built towards a new direct selling business model. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film with its four companions have been publicly disseminated on the FIREup web platform via Vimeo and presentations to academic audiences and serve as case studies for industry and academia to illustrate the potential of small scale funding to open a new space for research and knowledge exchange between fashion academics and SMEs. 
URL https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos
 
Title Fireup overview - documentary film 
Description A film approx 6 minutes giving an overview of the rationale for the research and activities for the FIREup project including a snapshot of four catalyst projects funded by FIREup and undertaken with SMEs and academic researchers 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film with its four companions have been disseminated on the FIREup web platform via Vimeo and presentations to academic audiences and serve as case studies to illustrate the potential of small scale funding to open a new space for research and knowledge exchange between fashion academics and SMEs 
URL https://vimeo.com/99883995
 
Description Four action research projects led to deep insights into the collaborative process between micro and small designer fashion companies and academics, and the significance of brokering and mentoring roles by academics in knowledge exchange. The difference in time frames within the industry and academia creates one of the signiifcant barriers to collaborative research.
The importance of trusted networks in the designer fashion sector became evident, and insights into the geographical extent of networks of collaborators, clients and suppliers were gained via a pilot study of 12 textile designers.
Through Catalyst Projects and specific targeted discussion workshops, FIREup developed enhanced capability within a section of the designer fashion community in London, enabling them to think about research and development as a longer term strategy underpinning more than the design of the next collection.
The project tested a variety of means of engagement with the time-poor and resource-poor designer fashion sector: online platform using a Twitter feed of information; online discussion group; small group face-to-face workshops; funding competition to catalyse research ideas, collaborations and knowledge exchange; practice-led action research projects; online survey; interviews. The time invested in face-to-face workshops created a trusted and loyal community and enabled online engagement to follow. The combination of online and offline engagement appears effective in knowledge exchange for the designer fashion sector.
Exploitation Route The PI and members of the FIREup team have continued to collaborate on three further funded projects dealing with specific aspects of the original broad research agenda: 1) AHRC FIRE.Digital project has redeveloped the original prototype Fireup web platform to become fire-fashion.uk; 2) CreativeWorks London Networks project developed an interactive online survey to capture the knowledge landscape of designer fashion and textile collaborations and eco system. 3) A workshop for fashion professionals and academics, resources survey and report have been developed on the subject of 'What's Digital about Fashion Design?' funded by RCUK NEMODE Network+ initiative. These materials are publicly availabe via the www.fire-fashion.uk web platform for the benefit of academia and the fashion industry to access information about digital approaches to the fashion design and development cycle.
Five films representing accessible case studies of academic and fashion and textile designer collaboration and knowledge exchange are available on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/fireupual/videos) and via the FIRE-Fashion web platform www.fire-fashion.uk.
Academic outputs in the form of journal papers are in development on the collaborative process of knowledge exchange specifically in the designer fashion sector, the implementation of a research and development culture within the sector, and development of innovative business models and production process in the context of sustainability. An academic paper was presented at the biennial Global Fashion Conference in October 2016, Stockholm 'Reconciling Innovation with Environmental and Economic Sustainability' featuring two catalyst project case studies and background research from the FIREup data gathering- survey and interviews. An academic paper 'Digital Fashion and Sustainability' was presented at the End of Fashion Conference in December 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand featuring two FIREup case studies and the results of the 'What's Digital about Fashion?' workshop.
The PI submitted a further funding bid to AHRC "Rethinking Fashion Entrepreneurship' to develop this work in a sector-specific research context, that has been awarded in March 2018 .
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL https://vimeo.com/99883995
 
Description A tangible FIREup community has been developed within the London-based designer fashion sector, that has initiated new discussions and collaborations , and also begun to cascade knowledge relating to formal research processes and funding through individual networks. One example of impact on a micro business, the accessories designer Michelle Lowe-Holder has independently continued her use of 3D printing in experimental designs, having been introduced to the technology (and learning about designing for the constraints of its production) for the first time via a FIREup catalyst project in 2013. Another of the SMEs, Christopher Raeburn, funded by a FIREup Catalyst project in 2013/14 has utilised the research and knowledge exchange undertaken during that project identifying unique brand values and sustainability ethos of the business to launch a new hybrid 'Remade' studio space in East London combining design, retail and production processes and narratives. This allows customers to have interaction with the entire sustainable design, development and making process, demonstrating impact of the original research.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description AHRC Standard Grant
Amount £556,467 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R006768/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 02/2021
 
Description Commissioned Research
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N504312/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2015 
End 11/2015
 
Description Networks Voucher scheme
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation Creativeworks London 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2015
 
Description New Economic Models in the Digital Economy Network+
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Department NEMODE Network+
Sector Multiple
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2015 
End 12/2015
 
Description EPSRC Circular Economy - Systems 
Organisation Open University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are collaborating on a new funding bid to the EPSRC Circular Economy call, focusing on system analysis of the fashion sector. I will be contributing as a CoI , bringing my expertise in fashion and textiles from both industry and academic perspectives
Collaborator Contribution The Open University is leading on this bid, based on their experience in system analysis and process modelling
Impact Funding bid was submitted but unsuccessful. Multi-disciplinary including international develoment, systems and process analysis, fashion practice, industry partners. Further collaboration on funding bids is underway with this partner.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Rethinking Fashion Entrepreneurship 
Organisation Middlesex University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I initiated the collaboration to create a cross-disciplinary team for an AHRC standard grant proposal researching fashion designer entrepreneurs. The grant has just been awarded and will commence in Sept 2018
Collaborator Contribution Middlesex University Business School, specifically CEEDR the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research, are new partners on the recently awarded AHRC standard grant Rethinking Fashion Entrepreneurship: Fostering Sustainable Practices, on which I am PI, and three academics from MU are CoIs. The grant will start in Sept 2018.
Impact The research collaboration will formally commence in Sept 2018
Start Year 2016
 
Title FIREup (Fashion Innovation Research and Enterprise ) online platform 
Description Online platform for the designer fashion community and academia to sign up and connect to enhance research and innovation potential 
Type Of Technology e-Business Platform 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Public and industry awareness of potential for creative innovation and knowledge exchange in the designer fashion sector, through case study projects 
URL http://www.fireup.org.uk
 
Description AHRC Creative Economy Showcase London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited by funding body AHRC to show results of FIREup project and engage with the wider community of Creative Economy researchers such as AHRC funded Creative Hubs and other Knowledge Exchange project activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.fireup.org.uk
 
Description Creativeworks London Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation of FIRE-fashion web platform and related results in two events, one a convened discussion panel of fashion designers ; a second as part of the Creativeworks Digital Ecologies showcase which is planned to be disseminated in further venues by Creativeworks London legacy group. Audience for panel discussion (academics, industry and public) engaged in debate on the changing landscape in fashion practices in terms of technology and sustainability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.creativeworkslondon.org.uk
 
Description End of Fashion Conference , Wellington New Zealand 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Academic conference presentation at the End of Fashion conference in Massey University, Wellington New Zealand Dec 7th-8th 2016. Paper entitled "Digital Fashion and Sustainability - investigating new paradigms" building on the FIREup project research into SMEs, new technologies and business models and engagement in digital strategies. Contribution to the debate on the disruption to the fashion system status quo, via a digital shift, and changing paradigms at all stages of the fashion cycle from design and production to marketing and consumer facing co-creation, customisation and virtual fashion. Paper will be developed for publication as a chapter in a forthcoming volume The End of Fashion to be published by Bloomsbury in 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://thendofashion.com
 
Description FIREup symposium and workshop, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The final symposium marked the end of the FIREup project and presented findings to a mixed audience of fashion business and industry professionals, UAL academics, PhD and MA students and 2 senior AHRC representatives of the Knowledge Exchange scheme. The AHRC Head of Knowledge Exchange gave a presentation and both AHRC representatives took an active part in the workshops. The findings presented included survey results, commissioned animations, and films of four KE case studies. Participants also benefitted from one of three themed workshops to continue the mentoring work of the project to its conclusion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Global Fashion Conference (Stockholm) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A paper was delivered at the Global Fashion Conference 20-21st Oct 2016 in Stockholm University, with a primary audience of academics and postgraduate students and secondary audience of industry professionals. Paper entitled "Reconciling Innovation with environmental and economic sustainability: collaborative research with design-led fashion enterprises", one of only a few tackling issues of sustainability. The paper described the background research and two case studies of collaborative action research between two fashion enterprises funded from the FIREup project under its catalyst seed funding scheme. This paper has been developed for submission to an academic journal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://gfc-conference.eu
 
Description Presentation for the CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) Research Alliance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 20 senior academics in HE with responsibility for supporting academic researchers attended a workshop organised by CHEAD in liaison with AHRC to hear about leadership of successful design research projects. This was one of a series of similar workshops run around the UK in 2017/18 to promote design leadership.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation of FIREup at UAL Innovation Insights Hub London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact An event exclusively related to dissemination of the FIREup project as part of a series delivered primarily to industry and academics, to connect these sectors. Audience drawn form the London area and beyond including visitors from Italian universities. The PI and CoIs presented different aspects of the project, incuding the case studies of the funded Catalyst projects, and an experiment in engaging fashion academics in online debate. The presentations encouraged relevant parties to engage with the Fireup platform, new sign ups were noted following this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation of FIREup project and FIRE platform Nottingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation of the FIREup project and the new FIRE.Digital platform to an academic audience of about 25 lecturers and researchers at Nottingham Trent University. First in a proposed series of university visits to disseminate the fire-fashion platform to encourage academics to engage and participate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.fire-fashion.uk
 
Description Workshops with SMEs on funding, collaboration, and digital shift 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Workshop and activities build on the trusted network established with SMEs and the research findings of FIREup in relation to knowledge exchange to support knowledge of collaborative funding possibilities ; Further issues were researched (collaboration activities, requirements for nine engagement) in order to develop knowledge for future funding bids - including the FIRE.Digital project. 25 SMEs saw value in giving up their time to be engaged in these discussions and learn ore about university research and collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015