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Engineering SMEs spin a profit from textile technology

Posted by: Sally Fallon 26 Jul 13 - 10:43AM  | Engineering

Fashion has had a long and rich relationship with technology; from early 90s t-shirts that changed colour when warmed, to the latest smartphone-integrated watches. Now it seems British SMEs are set to capitalise from this developing trend by mixing quintessential British quirkiness with engineering skills, ingenuity and an eye for the unusual.

According to Jonathan Lee Recruitment’s Glenn Clark one set of applications however has a chance at making a real difference to people’s  lives as well as a company’s fortunes: “There is a growing market for wearable health monitoring devices to assist those living with ongoing chronic illnesses such as diabetes. British companies have been at the forefront of developing wearable monitoring products in the form of plasters and other unobtrusive items, and developing something that changes lives has the ability to propel an SME into the limelight and deliver significant income.”

With headline products from the US like Google Glass or the kickstarter-funded Pebble watch allowing people to combine increasingly indispensible gadgets with everyday wearable items, there is a list of UK companies looking at more specialist opportunities ranging from aesthetic to useful products. For example, a team from Nottingham Trent University is looking at materials that provide heat, illumination and even near field communication to the wearer.

“Britain has an excellent heritage in both style and engineering, from Burberry to Babbage, so the idea of mixing the two and injecting a touch of our national eccentricities is a wonderful way of bringing SMEs to the international market” says Glenn. “The ability to spot niche opportunities and bring an innovative product into existence is something that we do well as a country, and something that will result in lucrative opportunities for SMEs.”

With increasing opportunities opening up in biomedical and medical areas, engineers may soon find themselves also entering a completely new sector, with resident positions becoming common place at major fashion houses in London, Milan and Paris.

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