Recently published data released by the Office for National Statistics show Research and Development Expenditure within the Fashion and Textiles manufacturing sectors stabilised in 2014 with the combined sector spending £22 million. Textile manufacturing that accounts for most of the combined sector (mainly due to the R&D requirements within material property, technical textile and associated machinery development) total stood at £17 million.
This level is similar as reported in 2013 following huge falls following 2012 where R&D spending in the textiles sector was reduced by more than a third.
Table 1: Research and Development Spend by Sector (£m at current prices)Source: Office for National Statistics
How does this compare to the other manufacturing sectors
To understand where fashion and textiles sits compared to other manufacturing sectors in terms of R&D expenditure, it is possible to look at the proportion spent on R&D in relation to sales. As we can see, the fashion and textiles sector spends 0.3% on R&D as a percentage of sales. Only pulp, paper and paper products spend less. In many ways this reflects the processes undertaken by the sector which are focussed on product assembly using traditional and in many cases technical methods of production. As we have seen, textiles of the three sectors does tend to spend more in R&D given material technology and innovation is a major driver for many firms and a market the UK is a major player. In slight contrast, design and heritage are the major driver in apparel and leather industries.
Figure 1: Research and Development Spend as a Proportion of Sales (%)
Source: Office for National Statistics
The data does show there is a distinction with sectors that are constantly innovating on a scientific basis such as consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals. These sectors spend a vast percentage of their R&D expenditure in relation to sales as technology, science and advances in their fields continue to evolve.
As much of the literature tells us, innovation needs to be at the heart of UKs fashion and textiles drive to compete as technology drives a large number of requirements from wearables, to medical applications, to sports and leisure to name a few. How industry in the UK can harness these opportunities will be crucial to continued sector sustainability and growth. The right investment, right skills and right business strategies all will be required to ensure this occurs.