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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 25, 16-22 September 2023

Nurturing Technical Textiles through Startups and Academic Excellence

Jyoti Tiwari

The Government of India has approved a new scheme for providing financial assistance of up to Rs 50 lakh to startups and individuals engaged in technical textiles. Moreover, 26 premier institutes have been identified for promoting research, innovation and academics in technical textiles with preparations underway for introducing a full-fledged degree programme in Technical Textiles from academic year 2025-26. This article aims to give you a deeper insight into the realm of technical textiles and the latest initiatives and trends that are poised to shape the sector's trajectory in the near future.

Textiles are often unfairly pigeonholed into the narrow categories of garments and upholstery, but the reality is that the textile world is transitioned into a far more expansive field than meets the eye. Technical textiles have been the driving force behind this transformation, breaking boundaries and infiltrating unexpected domains. These innovative fabrics, equipped with cutting-edge technology, now play pivotal roles in heavy industries such as construction, infrastructure development, healthcare, and defense. They are not mere materials; they are dynamic solutions.

Technical textiles are leading the transformation of the textile world is exemplified by their remarkable applications across the globe. Now, let's delve into specific examples from various countries to illustrate the diverse and innovative ways in which technical textiles are making a profound impact on industries worldwide.

In Austria, geotextile barriers deflect avalanches from entering reservoirs, ensuring the safety of surrounding areas. The Netherlands employs geotextile-reinforced asphalt systems to mend cracked road surfaces, granting roads longevity and resilience in the face of wear and tear. Croatia strengthens runways using mechanically bonded nonwoven fabrics, reducing the need for frequent maintenance at airports. Portugal's railway system along the Tua river relies on non-woven materials, enhancing long-term filtration capabilities and minimizing clogging risks, thus guaranteeing the reliability and efficiency of the railway network.

In Israel, the cutting-edge Protech sector showcases high-end camouflage technology that utilises thermal visual concealment materials to render soldiers less detectable, significantly enhancing military capabilities. Furthermore, Israel's innovative approach extends to the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the recycling process of fabrics, contributing to sustainability efforts and promoting eco-friendly practices.

Across the ocean in the United States, technical textiles revolutionise the world of sports, offering high-tech all-weather sportswear that boasts features like waterproofing, thermal comfort, UV protection, and exceptional breathability, ensuring athletes perform at their best regardless of the conditions. These textiles also find application in high-tech sports uniforms, such as jackets equipped with heating technology, providing comfort and warmth for athletes competing in extreme cold. Additionally, health and performance monitoring sportswear, incorporating heart sensor straps, aids athletes in optimizing their performance by monitoring aerobic and anaerobic thresholds.

These diverse examples from different regions underscore the incredible versatility of technical textiles in addressing a wide range of challenges and opportunities in various industries.

India's Technical Textile Ecosystem

India is experiencing a transformative era in its textile industry landscape, with the emergence of technical textiles as a "sunrise industry." These textiles are more than just fabric; they represent innovation, sustainability, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit. In a significant move, the Ministry of Textiles has approved the Startup Guidelines for Technical Textiles - Grant for Research and Entrepreneurship across Aspiring Innovators in Technical Textiles (GREAT), igniting a spark of innovation and entrepreneurship in this domain. This novel initiative is set to catalyse research, development, and academic growth in this sector.

 

Diverse Application Areas: The breadth of technical textiles applications in India spans Agro-textiles, Building-textiles, Geo-textiles, Home-textiles, Medical-textiles, Mobile-textiles, Packaging-textiles, Protective-textiles, and Sports-textiles. This diversity ensures a wide array of opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Cutting-Edge Technologies: The technical textiles sector has embraced cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, 3D/4D Printing, and Rapid Prototyping. These technologies are driving innovation and the development of high-performance textiles.

Sustainability: India's commitment to sustainability is evident in the focus on bio-degradable and sustainable textiles. The development of sustainable materials is not just an environmental imperative but also a lucrative market.

Academic Integration: Recognising the importance of a skilled workforce, India is investing in upgrading academic institutions to offer courses and degrees in technical textiles, ensuring a steady supply of skilled professionals.

The GREAT Initiative for StartUps

The Startup Guidelines for Technical Textiles - GREAT initiative is a game-changer for the technical textiles industry in India. Here's how it is set to facilitate research and entrepreneurship:

Financial Support: The initiative offers grants of up to Rs. 50 Lakhs for a period of 18 months. This financial support is a lifeline for aspiring innovators looking to translate their prototypes into market-ready products.

Incentives for Incubators: Incubators play a crucial role in nurturing startups. The Ministry provides 10% of the total grant-in-aid to incubators, encouraging their active participation in fostering entrepreneurship.

Commitment Requirement: To ensure dedication and authenticity, incubatees are mandated to invest a minimum of 10% of the funding in two equal installments. This commitment ensures that entrepreneurs are personally invested in their projects' success.

Niche Sub-segments: The initiative specifically targets niche sub-segments such as sio-degradable and sustainable textiles, high-performance & specialty fibres, and smart textiles. This focus will nurture innovation in specialised areas.

Academic Initiatives in Technical Textiles

To fuel the growth of the technical textiles industry, the Ministry of Textiles is investing in 26 academic institutions as they plan to offer specialised degree courses in technical textiles and upgrade their existing courses with effect from academic year 2025-26. The Ministry has asked these 26 institutes to upgrade their laboratory infrastructure and train the faculty in the application areas of technical textiles. Some of the premier institutes to be funded under the scheme include IIT Delhi, NIT Jalandhar, NIT Durgapur, NIT Karnataka, NIFT Mumbai, ICT Mumbai, Anna University, PSG College of Technology, Amity University, among others. These premier institutes are set to benefit from this initiative in the following ways:

 

Course Upgrades: Existing courses related to Textile Technology & Fibre Sciences, Design/Civil Engineering, and Fashion Technology/Design will undergo upgrades to cover various application areas of technical textiles, including specialty fibres, geotextiles, building textiles, smart textiles, and more.

 Academic department

Subjects to be included in upgraded course

Textile Technology & Fibre Science

Technical Textiles Technology including Specialty Fibres

Design/Civil Engineering

Geotextiles & Building textiles

Fashion Technology / Design

Smart Textiles, Protective Textiles, Sports Textiles, Home Textiles, Cloth Textiles

Mechanical Engineering

Mobile Textile, Industrial Textiles

 

New Degree Programs: The introduction of a new degree program in Technical Textiles with a broad emphasis on application areas will create a pool of skilled professionals equipped to drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

Inclusion Criteria: The guidelines for enabling academic institutes in Technical Textiles' education have been revised to include institutes with high NBA (National Board of Accreditation) scores, NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) ratings, and NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) rankings. This expansion aims to bring more institutions into the fold and ensure a robust academic foundation.

India's technical textiles industry is on the cusp of a revolution, thanks to the GREAT initiative and the Ministry of Textiles' forward-thinking approach. As we move forward, the convergence of research, entrepreneurship, and academia in the technical textiles sector promises a brighter, sustainable future for India and its skilled workforce. This sunrise industry is not just an economic opportunity; it's a path towards innovation, sustainability, and a better tomorrow.

Geotextiles Leading the Charge

Currently, Indian Technical Textiles market is the 5th largest in the world, sized at USD 22.5 billion in 2021-22, aiming to soar to an impressive $50 billion over the next five years. Collaborating closely with various government departments and state governments, the textiles ministry is actively working to boost the demand and penetration of technical textiles. This expansion mirrors the global trend, as the worldwide technical textiles market, presently valued at approximately $260 billion, is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025-26.

 

Among all categories of technical textiles, India's growth potential in the realm of geotextiles is substantial. Currently constituting a 2% share of total infrastructure project expenditure, this sector is poised for significant expansion. With an expected expenditure of $20-25 billion in domestic opportunities over the next 5-7 years as part of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), the prospects are promising. Furthermore, there is a robust global demand for geosynthetics, experiencing growth at an impressive rate of 30-33% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). Geotextiles find applications in critical areas such as road construction, railway development, dam projects, and soil erosion control, making them an integral part of India's infrastructure landscape with ample opportunities for growth and innovation, providing a promising outlook for employment generation.

Technical Textiles Machineries and Tools: A World of Opportunities

The manufacturing of machinery and equipment is pivotal for fostering a sustainable ecosystem within India's burgeoning technical textiles industry. Despite ranking fifth globally in terms of market size, India has historically relied on imports for critical manufacturing and processing machinery, which escalates production costs, particularly for high-end products. To address this, in December 2022, the Ministry of Textiles introduced a scheme aimed at catalysing research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the domestic production of machinery, tools, equipment, and testing instruments for the field of Technical Textiles.

The initiative seeks to establish India as a global leader in this sector by fostering indigenous manufacturing and reducing dependence on imported high-tech machinery and equipment. Companies engaged in machinery manufacturing, textile/garment value chain manufacturers, research organisations, and academic institutions are encouraged to submit novel proposals under Component-I of the National Technical Textiles Mission (NTTM). This endeavor not only aligns with the "Make in India" program but also fosters collaboration with R&D leaders, machinery manufacturers, and academic institutions, creating high-skilled employment opportunities by producing quality machinery for the growing demand in the sector.

Conclusion

The trajectory of India's technical textiles industry is one marked by tremendous potential and innovation. With initiatives such as the Startup Guidelines for Technical Textiles (GREAT), academic integration, and the focus on indigenous machinery production, the government is actively fostering an ecosystem conducive to research, entrepreneurship, and sustainable growth. As the sector embarks on its journey towards a projected $50 billion market size, it is poised to not only fuel economic prosperity but also contribute to the nation's technological readiness and environmental sustainability. This sunrise industry exemplifies India's commitment to harnessing its vast potential, both in terms of skilled workforce and market demand, to lead the global stage in technical textiles. With continued dedication and collaboration across government, industry, and academia, India stands on the threshold of an era where innovation and sustainability converge, promising a brighter and more prosperous future for all stakeholders involved.

 

(The author is a digital content writer and creator. You can send us your feedback at feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.