FIRE.Digital: Digital Research Platform for Collaborative Fashion Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Arts London
Department Name: London College of Fashion


Micro, small and medium designer fashion and textile businesses act as an engine for the wider UK fashion and textile
sector, driving much of the creative conceptualization for the mass-market sector. However, lack of time and resources in
the resource- and time-poor fashion and textile sector has inhibited R&D culture in fashion SMEs, weakening the UK
sector's ability to innovate and capitalize on invention, and retain competitive edge internationally. Increasing pressures
such as natural resource depletion, escalating consumption and waste, competition from overseas, and financial
fluctuations driven by the seasonal nature of designer fashion all strongly indicate that the current fashion business model
is unsustainable from both ecological and economic perspectives.
Collaborative research and development between fashion designers and university researchers has great potential in
addressing these issues, however this space is currently in its infancy.
Micro enterprises and SMEs have a poor understanding of university research, its potential benefits and available funding
opportunities. These businesses cannot allocate resource toward R&D beyond the inventive approaches applied but
seldom capitalized upon in designer fashion. University researchers often work in isolation from the sector, use a different
language and time frames that are not always compatible with industry needs and expectations.
FIRE.Digital addresses these issues by developing the first digital platform for research-focused UK network of fashion
SMEs and researchers. The key aim of the Platform is to galvanize collaborative research and innovation and provide
sustainable source of data on UK fashion SMEs and research network.
Building on the existing London-focused FIREup digital prototype (, FIRE.Digital will develop into a highend
online tool for a UK-wide network of fashion industry and researchers to connect via user-friendly online network, as
well as access curated fashion and textile research content, including news and funding opportunities.
FIRE.Digital will develop existing standard backend tools to create bespoke digital data collation and visualization tools and
methodologies, enabling capture of quantitative and qualitative data from the registered users. This data will provide
significant insights into the structure of fashion SMEs, positioning of fashion and textile researchers, UK Fashion network
formations, digital behavior in fashion SME's and researchers, barriers to collaborative research and open innovation in the
UK fashion industry and lead towards establishing new research topics. These tools could potentially find application in
wider creative industry research context.
FIRE.Digital strategic and technical elements will be developed in collaboration with a Digital Agency. FIRE Focus Group,
consisting of designer fashion and textile SMEs and researchers, will be utilized for analysis, development and testing of
the platform.
UAL researchers will focus on defining fashion ontology and typology, which will underpin the site functionalities, as well as
act as a benchmark for classification of UK fashion and textile sector for digital purposes.
A comprehensive database of UK fashion researchers and fashion/textile relevant higher education institutions will be
collated in order to populate the platform and provide an accessible knowledge database of potential academic partners for
collaborative research.
The collation and classification of potential sources of fashion research news and information will provide a basis for a
sustainable stream of fashion and textile research, and act as a reference resource for both fashion SMEs and researchers
including development of new editorial content featuring groundbreaking people and research themes.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiary of the FIRE.Digital will be the UK fashion and textile sector. The project directly addresses the three
main challenges identified by the British Fashion Council: lack of a formal R&D culture; lack of knowledge and contacts
within the industry; and weak knowledge exchange and open innovation practices.
FIRE.Digital platform will provide a new and dynamic way for the sector to interact with academic research. It will offer both
curated and automatically generated content from selected sources and entirely new content generated by the FIRE
community to fashion businesses. It will enable the sector to find relevant research partners, provide a stream of up to date
information on new developments in fashion research, act as the primary repository for research information for designer
fashion and textile enterprises, and information on available funding for collaborative R&D. In addition, the platform will
provide a resource and repository for previous collaborative research and KE, thus creating benchmarks and exemplars for
the sector to build upon.
Fashion and textile researchers across the UK will have access to a research network and emerging themes within the
fashion and textiles sector through FIRE network and digital platform and an opportunity to access industry partners. They
will have access to substantial qualitative and quantitative data applicable in a range of research activities, from digital
behavior to fashion networks. FIRE.Digital will facilitate new research consortia between fashion researchers, SME
partners and industry organizations that will directly benefit fashion and textile HEIs across the UK.
Learning from the research into and operation of the networks and insights generated from platform data regarding the
designer fashion and textile sector can be disseminated and applied to other creative industries via academic networks,
including the AHRC KE Hubs and their legacy within universities across the UK.
FIRE will implement open research innovation, which will promote knowledge exchange and propose new business models
driven by user led innovation for the UK designer fashion and textile sector. This will enable designer fashion and textile
enterprises to change their business culture and practices by engaging with academic research utilizing KE and Open
Innovation approaches.
The findings resulting from FIRE activities will have impact on UK policy makers in developing and shaping new policies for
a more sustainable UK fashion sector.
Open Innovation and Knowledge exchange promoted by FIRE will enable the sector and academia to share best practices
in tackling environmental impact of fashion sector and adopting more sustainable practices.
FIRE.Digital offers a model that could be replicated for other sections of the creative industries, which are also
characterized by fragmentation and an inhibited R&D culture amongst micro-enterprises and SMEs.


10 25 50
Description The collaborative process of developing a new iteration of the prototype FIREup online platform - now - involved a series of focus groups with both designer fashion and textile industry SMEs and fashion professionals, together with fashion academics and researchers. This gave insights into the rapidly evolving landscape of fashion professionals' engagement with online resources and tools and enabled the web developers Suburb to gain first hand knowledge of the designer fashion sector, and design the platform with full understanding of user needs at the forefront. This knowledge was captured and fed into other desktop and literature research and development of the underpinning ontologies and typologies providing structure for the site. The project research builds towards a more nuanced understanding of the designer fashion sector, and develops an approach that assists in engageing a hard-to-reach community.
The platform launched Feb 2016 and is currently being publicised and populated with users and content generated and edited by the FIRE team and the site users. Curated content provides accessible information about research projects in the fashion sector. The site now hosts over 100 users.
Exploitation Route We are populating the site in its initial stage, and when a critical mass has evolved data can be gathered and analysed. This is envisaged to provide information on interactions and evolution of networks within the designer fashion ecosystem. There is very little academic research into the operation of the fashion system from a designer/creativity viewpoint and the platform will continue to provide research data and will be developed as a research tool, (further funding permitting) . The research from the FIRE-Digital project will contribute to academic outputs and be of interest to other researchers looking at fashion and to other creative industries that may operate on a different cycle than fashion but wish to interact. Detailed and specific knowledge related to the economically important designer fashion sector can inform both academia and industry, enhancing understanding for other non fashion sectors, and for fashion business and design management and ultimately, policy makers. The findings from the FIRE.Digital project and the fire-fashion website will be taken forward into the next project which has received funding in March 2018, "Rethinking Fashion Entrepreneurship: Fostering Sustainable Practices'. This project commenced October 2018
Sectors Creative Economy


Description The web platform was launched in 2016 and promoted at a range of trade fairs and conferences. Industry signups and postings have steadily grown in response to articles and information and given small businesses insight into university research, which will inform ongoing research into mapping of collaborative networks in the designer fashion sector. The learning from the development and response to the FIRE.Digital platform informed the current AHRC project Rethinking Fashion Design Entrepreneurship: Fostering Sustainable Practices, within which the platform will be utilised.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural

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 08/2018 
End 02/2021
Description New Economic Models in the Digital Economy Network+
Amount £18,000 (GBP)
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Department NEMODE Network+
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 12/2015
Title FIRE Fashion Innovation Research Evolution online platform 
Description Further development of prototype platform designed to provide a portal for academic research in fashion and textiles and to engage academics with SMEs in the designer fashion and textiles sector. To facilitate research collaboration and knowledge exchange and brokering of research consortia in the sector 
Type Of Technology e-Business Platform 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Platform recently launched and currently being populated by academics and SMEs, with content added by project team and users. Evaluation of impact will follow. 
Description 4th CIAUD Research Seminar University of Lisbon 19-21st Sept 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Every two to three years, The Research Centre in Architecture, Urbanism and Design (CIAUD) in the Faculty of Architecture of University of Lisbon invites 20 international experts across all areas of design to evaluate its research outputs, processes and work in progress. Staff research groups and postgraduate research students present work for critique and feedback. Each expert is also invited to present their own research to an audience of around 70 academics from the University and other institutions in Portugal, undergraduate and postgraduate students. The event in 2018 was the 4th seminar in the series , and the second I have been involved with. The dissemination of a wide range of design research from many countries creates a network of academics that would otherwise not meet, leading to new possible connections and collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016,2018
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
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
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
Description Presentation to the CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) Research Alliance: Next Generation Design Leadership Seminar, 7th March 2018, Derby. 
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 at Derby University on 7th March 2018 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 on 'Next Generation Design Leadership' taking place around the UK in 2017/18 to promote design leadership. As PI on a number of AHRC and other funded projects, I was invited by CHEAD Research Alliance Network of Higher Education institutions in the UK to speak about applying for and leading funded projects in applied research. Other speakers included Prof Paul Rogers, the AHRC Design Leadership Fellow and the audience comprised directors of research, unit co-ordinators and subject leaders. The presentation was later disseminated to the audience, to assist them in cascading the ideas to their own academic staff and especially early career researchers. As a result, I was invited to participate in other CHEAD Research Alliance events, and invited to apply for the AHRC Design Research for Change Showcase, which exhibited two of my AHRC funded fashion research and knowledge exchange projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
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