The future of the textiles sector in Northern Ireland will lie in a focus on technology and innovation to create new products, access new markets, and create new ways of doing business.

This was one of the messages delivered recently at the Design for Business lecture organised by Invest Northern Ireland’s Design Group and the Centre for Competitiveness, the theme of which was ‘Tomorrow’s Textiles Today’.

The lecture featured leading figures from the technical textiles sector who spoke about the advances being made in the area of technical textiles and the opportunities this affords textile companies.

Diarmuid McLean, Director of Innovation, Research and Technology at Invest NI comments: “The textile industry in Northern Ireland has suffered a series of major blows in recent weeks which have underlined the need to transform the industry in order to meet the challenges it faces.

“Technical textiles is an exciting area which integrates technology with traditional textile production to create intelligent fabrics. It is a sector with immense potential and one that Northern Ireland companies, with their vast expertise in textile production, are well placed to take advantage of.

“Technical textiles is a sector highlighted in the Action Plan for the future development of local textiles and clothing companies developed by international experts Kurt Salmon Associates. There are huge opportunities, for example, in the areas of medicine, hygiene and sportswear.”

Speaking at the event Marie O Mahony, a technical textiles consultant, said: “The astonishing new technology in contemporary textiles is narrowing the gap between the worlds of art, design, engineering and science. There is a growing tendency for textiles and their related technologies to be used to quite different effects by different users. New possibilities can be opened up by bringing an unexpected viewpoint to bear on existing materials and treatments. “

The other speakers were Jane McCann, Mari Mattila and Katijanna Sarjanen of the University of Derby who spoke about the performance sportswear market, and Michael Janecke who gave an analysis of opportunities in the worldwide market for technical textiles.

Closing the event John Andrews, of the Centre for Competitiveness Technical Textiles said “Tonight’s lecture has presented a more positive view of the textiles industry than we are currently experiencing within our local industry. The message is clearly that a combination of design and innovation is needed if businesses are to stay ahead of the competition, get new products to market more quickly and achieve growth and sustainability.”