Tech and Innovation in the Fashion Industry: UK Industrial Strategy

Tech and Innovation in the Fashion Industry: UK Industrial Strategy

Image via Black Neon Digital.

For London Tech Week, Black Neon Digital and Fashion Roundtable hosted a panel event on Human Connectivity, Ethics and Fashion discussing the importance of empathy and authentic connection and communication whilst interactions transition from the physical to the digital space.

The shift from IRL to URL is happening across all aspects of life; it has become increasingly difficult to go through a day without using technology. Responding to the challenges and opportunities created by the fourth industrial revolution, the government launched the UK Industrial Strategy in 2018.

The aim of the strategy is to boost productivity with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure. As part of the Industrial Strategy, the UK government has set out different Sector Deals, outlining how growth and innovation will be encouraged in different sectors.

The Industrial Strategy sets out four Grand Challenges to put the UK in the forefront of the industries of the future: AI and data, ageing society, clean growth and future of mobility and is built on five foundations: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places. Government and Industry policies in the Sector Deals are divided into these five categories.

The panel discussion and conversations that followed, indicated not only the importance of the digital revolution, but people’s curiosity in learning and understanding how innovation is being encouraged. With that in mind, Fashion Roundtable has highlighted a few of the tech-related policies included in the Industrial Strategy and the Creative Industries Sector Deal.

The speakers were:

Reema Patel 
Co-founder of the Women Leading in AI and programme manager at the Ada Lovelace Institute.

As programme manager at the Nuffield Foundation, Reema is working to establish the Ada Lovelace Institute, an organisation seeking to ensure that data & AI work for people and society. She is an experienced policy professional who has led various citizen engagement and participation initiatives on complex and controversial policy areas in the UK, including the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Citizens’ Economic Council, which successfully worked with and influenced the Bank of England’s public engagement strategy. Reema has consulted for a variety of international organisations, including the Danish Board of Technology Foundation and, San Francisco based technology social media start-up. She is a fellow of the RSA, founding trustee of a community-run library, and a local councillor.

Steve Lidbury
Executive Principal at Eight Inc.

As Managing Principal in London, Steve leads a team of t-shaped strategic designers and business creatives to deliver holistic, human-centric experiences for world-renowned brands for Eight Inc.’s EMEA region. He works in close collaboration with clients across a multitude of diverse categories to help understand their business, brand and audience challenges, and identify strategic opportunities towards designing a future vision. His engagement is focussed at the creative intersection of the physical, digital and human-designed world, to provide more relevant, integrated and connected experiences for tomorrow’s audiences.

Sometimes called “Apple’s best-kept secret” Eight Inc.’s clients include Apple, Estee Lauder, Tesla and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Zakee Shariff

Zakee has been an artist for as long as she can remember. Her creative practice and brand, Zakee Shariff was founded in 1997. For her coexisting as an artist and designer is a necessity. Her work is inspired by her spirituality, travel, healing, music and street culture. She is interested in creating an emotional response and translating experience. Her wish is to empower, heal, and touch peoples hearts. With the design/fashion side of her work, she works with stores across the globe, through her online storeand by appointment. Her aim is to work with communities of makers and artisans. She intends to create timeless pieces that are not dictatorial, have a strong sense of beauty and that one day can be handed down through the generations. Zakee is also a CTI trained Life coach, intuitive channeler, Reiki healer and founder of Dream Forward.
Listen to Black Neon Digital’podcast with Zakee Shariff.

Leanne Elliot Young
Co-founder, CommuneEAST

Young has pollinated the spaces between fashion, art, design and tech for over 10 years, incubating strategies through IRL + URL to install and invent creative concepts providing platforms for disruption, future thought and collaboration within a Glo-cal Market. Co-founding CommuneEAST “AN IDEAS AND VISION INSTITUTE” in 2015 ‘CREATING THE UTOPIAN TASTE OF THE FUTURE’. Curating modular IRL ULR residencies within the creative landscape providing conversations from a STEAM objective perspective. Using science, technology, art, maths viewpoint to ignite bold dialogue in the creative industries. Currently working between LDN and NYC.
Clients inc: British Fashion Council, British Council, LFWM, Samsung, Nike, Adidas, Selfridges Group, Liberty, Kenzo, Liam Hodges….Featured in, Vogue, Office NYC, Dazed, i-D…

Tracey Suen
Founding Director 50m

50m is a fashion concept offering a new retail experience for both designer and customer. Devoted to supporting and showcasing emerging designers, providing them a platform to sell and present their collections. Based in Eccleston Yards, 50m’s has created community and social space in which designers can share their experiences and support one another. 50m exists to radically change the balance of power between shops and designers. Tracey has previously worked at Something and Son, Makerversity and Create London, all of which are organisations that support and promote makers and artists.

Tamara Cincik
CEO & Founder, Fashion Roundtable

Tamara has 20 years experience working in the fashion industry, as a fashion editor and brand consultant, both in London and globally for publications such as i-D, Bazaar, Muse and Vogue, VIP clients and designer brands on advertising campaigns, fashion shows, consultancy and brand design. Uniquely, Tamara has also worked in Westminster as a Parliamentary Researcher for Sharon Hodgson MP, who was her mentor on the prestigious Fabian Women's Network Mentoring Scheme. Tamara organised events at the Houses of Parliament, with politicians, educationalists, key sector stakeholders and creative industry leaders and a series of roundtables for the fashion industry to meet with Parliamentarians, to discuss their concerns around Brexit and future sector growth. Tamara also heads up the secretariat team for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion, and with Fashion Roundtable leads on policy papers such as the forthcoming Representation and Inclusion in the Fashion Industry.

Moderated by Jodi Muter-Hamilton
Founder & CEO Black Neon Digital

Black Neon Digital works visionaries to build businesses that have integrity. As host of Black Neon Digital podcast series Jodi speaks with leading fashion industry entrepreneurs to explore new ways of working that promote sustainability and craftsmanship whilst embracing innovation. As Communications Director at Fashion Roundtable Jodi works to develop the business strategy and ensure events, initiatives and services are communicated in the way that makes the most impact. Jodi is extremely passionate about the power of technology, for supply chain transparency and customer experience.

Jodi works with companies who are revolutionising fashion, such as Proximity Insight a retailtech firm who’s in-store platform unifies digital and physical retail for luxury fashion retailers including

Overall, the Creative Industries Sector deal is successful in accommodating for the uniqueness of the Creative Industries, which are composed of a variety of different sub-sectors with similar but distinct needs and also fragmented due to the small size but large quantity of businesses. However, the focus is mostly on screen sectors such as films, video games and animation. As well as having the largest export values, these are more easily associated with technology and innovation because technology is the medium through which these are delivered. However, it would be a shame to overlook the creative potential of incorporating technology with the more tactile and physical creative sectors such as theatre, dance and fashion.

The Industrial Strategy

  • Raise Research & Development (R&D) investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027,

  • Increased the rate of R&D tax credit to from 11% to 12%, starting on January 1st 2018,

  • Invest £725m in new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes to capture the value of innovation,

  • Invest an additional £406m in maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of STEM skills,

  • Create a new National Retraining Scheme that supports people to re-skill, beginning with a £64m investment for digital and construction training,

  • Support electric vehicles through £400m charging infrastructure investment and an extra £100m to extend the plug-in car grant,

  • Boost our digital infrastructure with over £1bn of public investment, including £176m for 5G and £200m for local areas to encourage roll out of full-fibre networks.

There is a strong preconception that the Creative Industries are out-dated and detached from tech and STEM. However, what we head from our panelists and what we are seeing in statements from policy makers is that tech and creativity are largely intertwined, and progress in both areas requires an acknowledgment of this dynamic. For example, Expertise Research Centre for Nesta found that the creative industries are as likely as manufacturing firms to conduct in-house and external R&D and be more likely than services firms to do so, but this fails to be recognised.

Read the full report here.

Creative Industries Sector Deal

  • The Industrial Strategy White Paper commits to establish the UK as the world’s most innovative economy. The creative industries businesses already invest substantially in R&D; from epic, outdoor illuminations in 59 Production’s Bloom to the world leading fashion customisation of Unmade.

  • Joint investment to transform immersive technologies such as Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality.

Relevant Tech/ Fashion Policies Outlined In The Creative Industries Sector Deal

  • Open up R&D funding to catalyse innovation, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and industry will invest an estimated £58m on immersive technologies and double the UK’s share of the global creative immersive content market by 2025,

  • Aim to tackle copyright infringement, continue to address the transfer of value from creative industries and progress work on closing the value gap at the European and domestic levels,

  • We will help creative firms access finance by investing up to £4m (subject to business case) in a programme of intensive business investment readiness support.

  • We will enable creative businesses to harness the power of immersive technologies to create content, products and services with a £33m investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund into the Audiences of the Future Challenge,

  • Form Creative Clusters and partnerships with universities to encourage investment in R&D,

  • The industry will bring together innovators from industry with creative visionaries to consider the challenges and opportunities posed by economic and societal trends and scientific discoveries at Createch.


The Creative Industries if largely fragmented, a result of a heavily SME-based sector, which leads to:

  • Lack of strategic and cross-sectoral R&D that occurs with other sectors,

  • Increased barriers to raising investment, such as a lack of specialised knowledge and resources, as micro-businesses are usually less well placed to bid for, and manage, large scale funding awards that could build networks of expertise;

  • Creative research and its application tends to be seen as separate to hard industrial research, even though it often involves many of the same technologies.

  • Geographical exclusion of businesses located outside of London in regard to accessing funding,,

  • The ideas-rich, IP-heavy nature of creative business assets which are not always recognised as collateral.

Read the full Creative Industries Sector Deal here.

The fashion industry is SME-heavy, lacking a cohesive and fully representative body; small brands, producers, entrepreneurs and designers bear the responsibility of advocating for their needs and highlighting their achievements. This is especially the case when it comes to communicating with government and policy makers, hence our work here at Fashion Roundtable bringing the industry into parliament for the APPG for Textiles and Fashion meetings and engagements.

With the backdrop of retail store closures, declining high streets and the fall in education in the creative subjects, cooperation, communication and creativity will be essential for the players in the industry to take advantage of the opportunities that the government is offering for innovative an trailblazing ventures.

By Rafaella de Freitas, Policy Research Assistant at Fashion Roundtable.

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