Report Scope and Objectives
The goal of the TCBL Project has been to create a transformational business ecosystem capable of constantly innovating the business and process models of the European Textile and Clothing industry. This in turn aims to bring 5% of production capacity back to Europe and reduce the sector’s environmental footprint by 20% by 2025. As customers are showing increasing attention to ethical and environmental sustainability in the clothes they wear, significant opportunities for meeting this challenge are emerging based on new production and distribution technologies, innovative organisational models, and new creative energies. If these opportunities are adequately captured through business model innovation, these trends have the promise of radically re-structuring one of the globe’s most consumption-oriented and environmentally unfriendly industries.
This process is being driven by a network of over 50 TCBL Labs that freely experiment the implications of potential innovations and their concrete impacts on business operations. A broad range of structures, from materials research laboratories to design collaboratives and social community centres, explore innovation potentials from varying mixes of three perspectives – design, making and place – and engage with other labs, the local community, and T&C businesses – TCBL Associates – through concrete projects.
In turn, TCBL Associates capture these innovation potentials and apply them in concrete actions – Innovation Projects – that accompany their shift towards more innovative and competitive business models. This process is supported by federated knowledge, learning and business services that are aggregated through the TCBL Open Platform.
The TCBL Project was a 48-month initiative (July 2015 – June 2019) engaging 21 different organisations from 11 EU Member States, under the leadership of the City of Prato (IT). The multidisciplinary partnership involved textile research centres, universities, FabLabs, sector associations, training centres, software houses, and social and socio-technical research centres.
The TCBL Network of Labs and Associates
One of the main achievements of the TCBL Project has been to engage with external organisations in the role of Lab or Associate, building a value-based community of players wishing to make a difference. Each joined TCBL on the basis of a set of shared principles, and has expressed needs and aspirations for new directions and concretely participated in innovation actions, all with no direct financial support from the project.
The ‘innovation movement’ created by TCBL was built through Open Calls whose scope and process was gradually refined over the years. The end result is an open rolling application procedure – the TCBL Protocol – that not only selects new candidates but also guarantees the adherence of existing members to the TCBL principles over time.
At the end of the TCBL Project, the network consists of 52 Labs and 235 Associates.
The needs and ideas of ecosystem participants took concrete form through the activation of innovation projects involving cooperation between and among Labs and Associates. Some were initiated by the research agendas of one or more Labs, some by Associates wishing to collaborate across supply chains to test a market idea, while some were driven by TCBL partners inspired by possible innovation scenarios. Some examples of innovation projects carried out within the scope of the project:
- Re-connecting value chains for natural fibres (cotton, silk, hemp…), from the cotton field through to finished apparel.
- Reduction of chemical use across textile supply chains and coordinated testing and certification to apply to the end product.
- Re-examination of processes for garment manufacturing, ranging from social production in sewing cafés to re-designed workplaces in clothing factories.
- Empowerment of independent designers and short runs production facilities through support and matchmaking services.
- Exploring the potential for the use of bacteria for textile dyeing, with near-zero environmental impact.
- Experimentation of a software platform for the digitisation of historical textile collections at the museum or company level, both to promote brand value and to inspire new designs.
- Definition of an AI-based clothes rental service for men providing a weekly, locally produced wardrobe adapted to personal taste and calendar events.
Knowledge Management, Business Services, Value Modelling and Communication
In parallel to the core activities were the actions aiming at structuring and consolidating the emerging innovation ecosystem.
- Knowledge management was first explored with structured ICT systems, while later shifting to open social media platforms.
- Over 70 Handbooks published on issuu.com (over 1.500 reads)
- Over 200 videos on the TCBL YouTube channel (over 8.000 views)
- Over 50 articles on the TCBL_zine wordpress (over 1.000 visits)
- Business services also followed a more open path, with the development of Weeave (a single sign-on system) as the means for TCBL members to access a range of aggregated third party services (supply chain management, matchmaking, circular fashion, etc.): over 1.000 registered users.
- Value modelling structured Lab services and the strategic framework for the Innovation Landscape of concrete projects. In parallel, process and ex-post evaluation measured cost impacts and identified the impact mechanisms.
- An aggressive communication strategy fully re-designed the TCBL website, including a newsletter, reading lists, regular publications of stories, etc., and coordinating social media. (over 100.000 web page views, over 1.500 Facebook page likes)
- A highly successful yearly series of #TCBL two-day conference events, featuring a range of interaction modules from traditional keynotes to TED style presentations and pecha-kucha style interaction. (over 750 participants).
The wealth of value created in the four years of the TCBL Project is being capitalised through the TCBL Foundation, the structure currently being established by key project partners entrusted with carrying forward the network’s activities. The TCBL Foundation’s Business Plan and a growing number of strategic partnerships bode well the long-term sustainability.
TCBL is thus expected to have a widespread impact on the T&C industry in Europe, shifting consumer goals, expectations, and even engagement in the processes of designing and making clothes. This in turn will have both social and environmental impacts, as well as significantly improving the prosperity of Europe’s diffused systems of production.