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4 July, 2015 - 08:31

Advanced design and certification technology platform for functional apparel technical textiles

performance sportswear

The global sportswear market is worth over $100 billion a year and the competition is fierce. 

As opposed to the old days when it was absolutely uncool to be seen in tracksuits on the high street, athletic apparels have become both a lifestyle and fashion statement in recent years. Yet, that means sportswear customers are savvier than ever – expecting more not only in style and look but also in functional performance such as heat stress, cold stress, compressional stretch and pressure comfort, injury prevention, performance enhancement and maintenance of physiological health. 

The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) funded a research team in the Textile Bioengineering Research Center (TBRC) hosted in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who have devised comprehensive computational software and engineering database to design and simulate the thermal performance of functional textiles and garments from physiological stresses and psychological comfort points of view. The research team is now looking for investors to commercialise their various inventions with huge business potential in the fast-growing clothing market. 

Sports, a new religion

The emergence of so-called ‘sports luxe’ – such as couture trainers and designer joggers with hefty price tags – has permanently changed the landscape of fashion and ready-to-wear industry. 

People are generally more aware of the health benefits of working out than before and are happier than ever to wear athletic clothing that looks fashion-forward and chic. 

Sports lovers now expect affordable sports products that offer better quality, better design and higher performance. And for ultimate performance, the key is to keep the athlete cool and dry while offering support to the right muscles. That explains the birth of sweat-wicking, heat-dissipating and stretch compression fabrics.

Experts at TBRC did systematic investigations on sports physiology and used multi-scale computations to design all-rounded garment and fabric. They mapped out body heat and moisture distribution to determine which part of the clothing needs to dissipate more heat or draws more moisture than others. 

The biomechanical aspects of each sport also informed patterning and design. Optimal level of support or compression is applied on the key muscles for optimal arterial and venous blood flow, and hence, improved stamina and faster recovery. 

With the platform they designed, functional performance of each fabric and garment can be analysed with respect to specific combinations of sport activities and external environments. 

They also incorporated human lifestyle activities, living environments and anthropological characteristics of human populations with fibre materials, fabric structural features and garments structural design into the clothing functional CAD system for quantitative technical design and simulation.

In fact, the team have custom-designed a series of performance sportswear for Olympic elite athletes and functional uniforms for firefighters, medical workers and construction workers to  improve wear comfort, enhance performance, reduce thermal stresses and increase protection while minimising the risk of injury. 

The inventions from TBRC have been successfully commercialised and sold to more than 33 countries and developed as the national testing standards in USA and China (the ‘Moisture Management Tester’) and become the authorised product by Hong Kong Hospital Authority (the ‘Nano Facemasks’). The high performance sportswear designed and developed by TBRC team has been utilised to support elite athletes in major sports competitions in the world, including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 London Olympics.

The opportunities

The TBRC team is now looking for partners and investors from around the world to commercialise their inventions. One or more spin-out companies could be set up and possible scopes for commercialisation include:-

  • Novel smart anti-cancer and anti-infection biomaterials, nano particles nanofibres and medical devices for regenerate medicine
  • New functional textile fibres and fabrics
  • Original and creative functional garment innovations (products)
  • Innovative medical protective product innovations such as respirators and personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE)
  • Coud computational technology platform for technical design of functional textiles and apparel products and for e-business platform in terms of testing certificating functional performances of fibres, fabrics and apparel products
  • Development of e-technology-based lifestyle oriented & customised product interactive functional design and manufacture services to global consumers.
  • Business plans, patents, designs, registered copyrights and scientific papers are available for review and discussion. 

Contact information: david.baghurst [at] isis.ox.ac.uk (Dr. David Baghurst) 

• This article is part of the ‘ITF Projects Commercialisation Programme’ hosted by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) in conjunction with Isis Innovation, the technology transfer company of the University of Oxford. The programme aims to expose Hong Kong innovations to international audiences and hence, facilitate commercialisation via the network of Isis. For information on all projects in the programme, please visit http://file.hkstp.org/mh4h4uk3f5u62a6p/Marketing/ITF%20Projects%20Commercialisation/ITF_information_kit.pdf

This project is organised by Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material/event (or by members of the project team) do not reflect the views of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Innovation and Technology Commission or the Vetting Committee of the General Support Programme of the Innovation and Technology Fund.

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