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Global Change Award 2018: 'We need to speed up the shift towards a circular economy'

By Vivian Hendriksz

20 Mar 2018


Stockholm - Making new fibers and textiles out of food crop wastewas the public's favourite sustainable innovation from the 2018 Global Change Award, as the Crop-A-Porter has been named the main winner of the H&M Foundation's annual innovation competition. Winning a 300,000 euro grant, in addition to mentoring and access to the year-long accelerator program, Crop-A-Porter, alsoknown as Agraloop, aims to kick-start a new, circular standard for the fashion industry when it comes to textile production.​ ​

As one of the world's main competitions for early-stage innovations founded by the H&M Foundation in 2015, the Global Change Award's expert panel previously selected 5 winning start-up innovations which they believe are able to accelerate the industry's shift from a linear model to a circular one before leaving it up to the public to decide how the 1 million euro grant should be divided. The people behind the winning innovations of the third annual challenge and how the grant was divided was announced Tuesday evening during an intimate ceremony held at Stockholm's city hall.

Crop-A-Porter wins the 300,000 euro grant from the H&M Foundation Global Change Award 2018

Crop-A-Porter aims to tackle the agriculture industry issue with crop waste by turning it into a valuable resource, thereby generating additional income for farmers. By taking the harvest remains from crops likes bananas, pineapples, hemp, sugarcane and oil-seed flax and turning it into bio-fiber through closed-loop technology, the fiber can then be used to make a new sustainable textile. "The Agraloop will kick-off a new paradigm for natural fiber by levering food crop waste for textile fiber production," said Isaac Nichelson, spokesperson for Crop-A-Porter (Argaloop). "We seek to help our industry begin to decouple from cotton as the world's dominant natural fiber resource. Winning the Global Change Award means we can begin to unlock huge value for the textile and fashion industry."

"We can now propel this important technology much faster into scaled production. The grant will be used for optimizing our closed-loop technology, protecting IP, and beginning to produce commercial Agraloop BioFibre fiber production," added Nichelson. In addition to Crop-a-Porter, this year's winning innovations include Algae Apparel, making bio-fibers and dyes from algae; Smart Stitch, a dissolvable thread; The Regenerator, a new process which separates cotton and polyester blends; and Fungi Fashion, a biodegradable textile made from mycelium, also known as mushroom root.

The five winning start-ups were hand selected by the international expert panel from more than 2,600 entries from 151 countries. The panel of industry leaders, which included Professor Edwin Keh, CEO of The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Bandana Tewari, Editor-at-Large for Vogue India, sought out innovations that were positioned to have a positive impact on the industry and planet.

“We looked for scalability, impact - how many lives can it impact and how quickly can you give these choices to people"

Bandana Tewari, Editor-at-Large for Vogue India

"I am always thinking what are the new, intelligent materials that can be recycled and have positive impact - I was looking at what the unintended consequences of this winner could be, or what positive impact this could have as a by-product of this stream," said Lewis Perkins, President of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovations Institute on what he looked for in the winning innovations. "I was looking for things that were not only creating new innovative materials but also solving our current waste stream solutions. To me, that means you are winning on both sides."

Coming in second place and receiving a 250,000 euro garment is The Regenerator, a new circular technological process that uses a bio-friendly chemical to separate cotton and polyester blends and regenerates them into new, fully useable textile fiber. "Winning the Global Change Award is really valuable since it enables us to further improve and scale-up our process," said Lisa Schwarz Bour, spokesperson for The Regenerator. "In addition, as a technology driven team, we will get access to industrial fashion networks outside of our geographic region and receive end-user input."

The three remaining innovations, including Algae Apparel, Fungi Fashion, and Smart Stitch will each receive a grant of 150,000 euros. The first aims to turn algae into a bio-fiber as well as an eco-friendly dye that is also good for the skin. The second, also known as MycoTEX, aims to make custom-made clothing from decomposable mushroom roots and the last one features a dissolvable thread to make it easier to disassemble garments for recycling. Together with the other winners, they will embark on a one-year acceleration programme, funded by the H&M Foundation, Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

"The H&M is a big actor within the fashion industry. With our size comes a great responsibility to make sure the fashion industry changes"

Karl-Persson, Board Member of the H&M Foundation and CEO of H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB

The accelerator offers the winners with a toolbox of skills, networks, and exposure to help the winners actualise their ideas, maximise their efforts and receive inside industry access.​ ​"I congratulate all five winning teams. They show that innovation knows no national borders and can rest in anyone's head," said Karl-Persson, Board Member of the H&M Foundation and CEO of H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB. "This day marks the start of the one-year innovation accelerator where the H&M Foundation, Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm will support the winners to cut years off their timeline, bringing them to fashion and innovation hubs such as Stockholm, New York, and Shanghai."

In addition to announcing how the one million euro grant for the Global Change Award was divided among the winners, the H&M Foundation and Accenture released a trend report, with the aim of sharing lessons learned, findings and new trends within circular fashion based on the thousands of applications submitted for the Global Change Award. "Today's organisations need to be purpose driven, focused on identifying - and then filling - a societal need," said Jill Standish, leader of Accenture's Retail Practice. "It's clear that, as technology and fashion are coming together as one to help create sustainable value in the industry, the business model of what we call 'fast-fashion' has to change."

"The Global Change Award is an important initiative in helping us find talented entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds who are taking ground-breaking ideas and blending them with technology to create disruptive solutions that can revolutionize sustainable fashion."

Photos: Winning Innovations Global Change Awards