EU Offers EUR140m in Textiles Research Funding

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

By Just Style

This article was published in Just Style July 9, 2021.

The European Commission has published details of the first themed grant calls in Horizon Europe, its seven-year EUR95.5bn 2021-7 research funding programme – including at least six with obvious relevance to the textiles industry.

The six calls are worth around EUR140m (US$167m) in total, to be spent over the course of 2021-2022.

The calls include topics such as bio-based materials and antimicrobial nanocoatings, and electronics that can be embedded in textiles.

Would-be recipients must form consortia to apply for the grants via the EU’s Funding and Tenders portal.

The current Horizon Europe work programme details funding calls planned up to the end of 2022, when a new work programme will set out the next round.

Competitive Proposals

Most Horizon Europe calls are only open to consortia with participants in at least three different countries, and subsidiaries do not count. The call topics also typically cut across different industries, meaning a textiles firm will in many cases have to team-up with other sectors – as well as academics – to produce a competitive proposal.

A ‘Partner Search’ field on each call’s web page allows applicants to find others seeking research partners.

For-profit companies in the EU, especially small businesses, can usually receive funding on similar terms to academics and non-profits. But participants in non-EU countries generally pay their own way, unless their country’s government has signed an association agreement with the EU, which usually involves paying the EU for access.

The UK signed one last year; talks with other countries are still in their early stages. Horizon Europe grants are reimbursements for the recorded costs of research and development, so the final amount paid can be less than the headline amount awarded.

Boosting Circularity

In any case, the Commission has reserved EUR22m for projects dedicated to “increasing the circularity in textiles, plastics, and/or electronics value chains.” The goal is improving the recyclability and reusability of materials, and to reduce industrial demand for raw materials.

The work programme notes that textiles are the fourth “highest-pressure” category for the use of primary raw materials and water (the top three are food, housing and transport).

As well as boosting circularity, the EU also wants the textiles industry to cut environmentally hazardous substances, such as synthetic microfibres. Individual grants per project will be worth roughly EUR6m to EUR8m, depending on the details.

Protective Garments

Also, around EUR23m will go to fund the development of antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-fungal nanocoatings for surfaces, including textiles for use in protective garments, lab coats, face masks and the like.

The ultimate goal is to limit the spread of disease or create better living spaces for people with health problems. Grants for this topic will be around EUR4-EUR6m per project.

An indicative budget of EUR20m has also been set aside for projects developing “manufacturing technologies for bio-based materials“.

Textiles is one several industries where the Commission envisages these materials being used to reduce EU carbon emissions. Individual grants would be around EUR4-6m.

Production Innovation

Another call, with a budget of EUR21.5m, will fund innovation in production lines.

This seeks, among other things, proposals to integrate artificial intelligence handling systems, as well as “innovative, efficient, and low consumption” systems for various production line tasks.

Crucially, projects will need to target three completely different manufacturing sectors, of which textiles can be but one, meaning textile and clothing firms will have to work with a diverse array of research partners to produce a competitive proposal.

A EUR35m call will fund projects developing a diverse array of environmentally-friendly electronics, including those made from flexible materials that can be embedded in textiles.

The EU wants proposals for “flexible, printed and organic electronics” that support the circular economy, such as through reusable materials. While many applications for these technologies will be considered, the call notes highlight wearable technologies as an area of interest.

Finally, another EUR20m has been reserved for the materials for advanced electronics and nano-electronics, such as for use in “smart textiles.”

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