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H&M Foundation announces innovation winners for 2018 Global Change Awards

The H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm of the H&M group, has announced the innovations fronting its third annual Global Change Awards.

The 2018 H&M Foundation Global Change Award winners
The 2018 H&M Foundation Global Change Award winners

The H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm of the H&M group, has announced the innovations fronting its third annual Global Change Awards.

The competition, which is focused on finding early-stage innovations, aims to help speed up the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry in order to protect the planet.

Innovation is at the heart of that, with the applications this year spanning everything from biomimicry, nanomaterials and robotics to connected supply chains, wearables and bio-based materials. Interestingly, most solutions came from innovators outside of the fashion industry.

In total there were 2,600 entries from 151 countries. The resulting five selected innovations include Crop-A-Porter, which uses leftovers from food crop harvests to make sustainable bio-textiles; Algae Apparel, which turns algae into bio-fiber and eco-friendly dye that is also good for the skin; Smart Stitch, a dissolvable thread that makes repairing and recycling a breeze; The Regenerator, which recirculates fashion by separating cotton and polyester blends, turning them into new textile fiber; and Fungi Fashion, a custom-made clothes line made from decomposable mushroom roots.

“How we manage and consume resources will be crucial for the lives of present and future gene¬rations. All industries need to re-think, innovate and challenge status quo. Creative innovations are key to make this shift, and I congratulate the Global Change Awards winners who all have the power to help reinvent the fashion industry, enabling products and resources to be cycled instead of just having one single life”, says Karl-Johan Persson, Board member H&M Foundation and CEO H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB.

Between them the winners get a split of a one million euro grant. Members of the public are currently invited to vote for their favorite to help decide how that sum gets divvied up, which will be announced at the ceremony later this month.

The aim of the award, which also includes a yearlong accelerator program in partnership with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, is to not only raise awareness of the innovation that exists, but to drive scalability and ultimately partnerships.

These winning innovations are not for H&M specifically, but for the whole industry, with the Foundation focused on connecting them across the board. “That’s super important from our perspective. Partly because it’s a legal requirement for us [as a non-profit], but also because H&M is a big player but also a small part of a huge industry. For impact we have to include everybody,” Erik Bang, innovation lead of the H&M Foundation, tells me.

Winners in the past have included everything from a silk-like textile made from citrus juice through to a leather made from grapes. There’s also been a solar-powered solution to creating nylon and an RFID tag the size of a thread to identify material blends at the recycling stage.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.