The global textiles industry has been struggling to cope with reduced demand and downward price pressure driven by the current global economic situation. With no easy fix in sight, the industry is increasingly turning to innovation in order to maintain margins and open up new markets.
While early commentators predicted major breakthroughs from nanotechnologies in fields such a medicine and electronics, the textiles industry has been, and continues to be one of the fastest initial adopters of nanotechnology products and processes.
The innovations seen in the textile industry includes both innovations i.e. the development of recent products to deal with present consumer demand, or process innovation which leads to lesser unit costs, larger capacity and better quality. In the near future, the key opening for nanotechnology in the textiles industry is in product innovation, not process innovation.
In the textile industry, nanotechnologies are more likely to be employed to produce new materials, or improve the properties of existing materials, than to trim down the production cost or improve quality. Although still in its infancy, nanotechnology is already demonstrating to be a helpful tool in improving the performance of textiles, added value and additional revenue.
Smaller players will find it hard to adopt new technologies due to tight margins and cost of switching. Larger textile conglomerates with multiple product sectors are better placed to be winners. The highest growth opportunities (or rate of adoption) will be in technical textiles and non-cost sensitive products such as sport or military textiles. Barriers remain high for the highly cost sensitive clothing market, which makes up 60% of the market. Nanotechnology will provide incremental improvements to existing textile sectors, but offer high growth in nonconventional sectors.