BRUSSELS — December 6, 2016 — EURATEX, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation, held its 5th Convention on 25 November in Lyon in conjunction with the “Marché des Soies”. This year event was organized together with EURATEX’ French members’ federations: the Union des Industries Textiles (UIT) and Union Française des industries de Mode et Habillement (UFIMH). The Convention was dedicated to the role of Europe in servicing creative industries in presence of more than 110 participants who came to listen at 4 round tables providing ideas and visions on how the Textile and Clothing creative industries are tackling the challenges ahead to maintain and support creativity.
The event held in the prestigious venues of the City Hall of Lyon had broad international participation from more than 20 countries (business, research centers, industry associations and media). In his welcome word, EURATEX President Serge Piolat underlined that “to remain competitive, the European companies have to invest relentlessly in their innovation and skills to support their creativity embedded in their highly innovative products and processes. Companies have to continue to invest in such area and to use all legal means to protect those competitiveness assets.” He explained then in detail the current organisation of EURATEX in 3 poles and gave concrete examples of positives results for the industry in each of them: trade policy, sustainability, and R&D.
Experts of the first round table discussed the role of creativity as a crucial asset of the European competitiveness. There was consensus that companies must protect their creation and intellectual property (IPR). Experts confirmed that available tools like trademarks, registered and unregistered designs or copyright for the fashion part and patents for technical textiles should be used as those are not complex though the respect of simple procedures is needed. Lawyers encouraged companies to be more proactive in protecting their creativity and not be shy in using the instruments to defend the immaterial part of their value added. This is more and more necessary because there is an obvious increased risk of sales of counterfeited products through Internet sales and global platforms e.g. in USA and China.
The second round table was dedicated on the way creativity and innovation can be financed. There was agreement that banks in the EU misunderstand the creative industries, their cycle, their economic model hence the need to set up specific tools in certain countries like the BPI in France. Such tools should be spread across Europe to foster SMEs creativity and innovation even if EU funding do exist. But, while European R&D programs are complex, risky and time-consuming for an SME, those can finance up to 80% of ambitious projects, enlarge the network of contacts to interesting non-textile partners and help to recruit qualified staff. In both cases the national and regional competitiveness clusters are playing the role of facilitator and interface with SMEs and players of the EU textile technology platform. The latter has managed to drain more than €300 million since 2007 to the benefit of the industry.
Immediately after the lunch Mr Tokarski, Director in the DG Grow in charge of Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing in the EU Commission did show to the audience how Commission services are tackling in innovative ways three main areas of importance to the textile and clothing industry: [a] the Commission is developing new financial engineering methods to unlock existing fund to support investment (regional & EIB/EIF); [b] Commission is giving a great attention to IPR by promoting innovative approaches to foster such protection (e.g. IPR vouchers for SMEs, start-ups to be trained/coached to protect their creativity, etc.); [c] the EU is investing on skills gaps and the textile and clothing is mature for such approach that is sponsored by the Commission for 6 pilot sectors in the context of the new EU Skills Agenda.
The European industry should be proud of its creativity and should preserve its investment in culture. During the third round table, representative of various businesses and organisations confirmed that creativity is a long term investment in young talents and that everything must be done to nurture and keep them. There is an imperative to maintain and defend the attractiveness of the fashion places whose cultural diversity makes Europe unique. In this context experts concur on the key role of exhibitions in the promotion of creative materials while associations and collective instruments should help industry to adapt rapidly with new business models to the new consumers behavior that are breaking the “silos” between creativity perception and consumption patterns.
During the last round table discussion on skills there was a clear convergence in the diagnoses done through the country (Germany), regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) and companies (Marzotto): the industry has an urgent need of new skills. Those should be more in tune with the industrial (e.g. innovation) and societal evolution (e.g. sustainability) that are defining the future end market needs. One way could be the fostering of exchanges of best practices for instance in the preservation of existing knowledge through intergenerational transfer or in the best way to be in tune with the “millennials” to attract talents. In this regards, the EU Commission among others (above) is testing with the creative industries innovative funding mechanisms like the Worth project or the future linkage between the STEM skills and creativity where coaching will play a central role.
In his concluding remarks EURATEX thanked the audience for the richness of the contributions and for the ideas that were exchanged. Those will be used for future policy developments. EURATEX invited all the participants to attend the 6th Convention that will be held early October 2017 in Portugal in conjunction with the 50th MODTISSIMO fair in Porto.