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Scale-Up Technology

Spotlight on bio-based textiles: Innovation scaleup – a long and winding road

By Emmi Berlin, Head of Communications at Spinnova

I would imagine overseeing innovation in a textile company is not the easiest job. The global textile industry is in urgent need of sustainable materials and technologies, most of which are emerging. Implementation takes years, so the innovation manager has been scouting for years now. Several criteria need to match from both the sustainability angle and business angle, which can be tricky.

The innovation manager’s troubles don’t end there. What’s key here is getting a clear picture of the innovator’s maturity stage now, and scalability going forward. First, one must get an idea of the technology per se, then understand how that can be scaled to volumes in theory, and then working out how likely that is in practice. When it comes to fibres, a sustainable and adequate raw material supply must also be 110% certain. All this is a bit of a gamble, so sustainability commitment, skill and determination are needed from the brands.

At Spinnova (@SpinnovaLtd), we’ve talked to hundreds of potential partners who take an interest in our fibre innovation. The market has hopes that this fibre became available as soon as possible. Of course, we all feel the environmental pressure to do something fast! We then explain our maturity stage; that we have a pilot factory in Finland, as we need proof of concept before entering the next phase; a commercial facility. It’s sometimes hard to explain, especially with proprietary technology, how the next phase – or the next – will pan out, but we try our best. Yet, it’s sometimes hard for people to understand why this takes so long.

We completed the construction of our pilot late 2018 and have been ramping up the volume ever since. Starting a greenfield factory with everything tailor made is a huge undertaking, so actually, all things considered this exercise has been incredibly fast. The pilot now produces volumes of fibre for our brand partners to test, which helps commercialise it faster than we could on our own.

An innovation manager that has been following us for a longer time would know that things have gone exactly according to plan. Every decision we make has the objective of scaling. Our vision is to have our fibre available to all consumers alike. By creating a technology concept scalable to any size, and ensuring a sustainable, big volume raw material supply, this is fully possible.

Scale and volume are especially crucial to sustainable innovation. If it’s a luxury of the few, it will not have the environmental impact it was created for.

For more information about the topics raised in this article, please contact Emmi Berlin, Head of Communications at Spinnova, on emmi.berlin@SPINNOVA.FI

This expert view is part of BMI’s spotlight week on bio-based textiles. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Bio Market Insights’ editorial team and management.

Topics such as these will be discussed at the World Bio Market Conference, the leading assembly for the bio-based economy, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in November.


Read: New report: Introducing bio-based and sustainable components to long-standing supply chains.

Download: New report – Standardisation and certification developments in the bioeconomy

Read: 5 Minutes With… Katharine Teague, Head of Advocacy and Sustainability at AB Sugar.

Read: The first ‘Cotton + Corn’ shoe from Reebok’s sustainable range hits the shops.

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