About 3,000 innovators have been assessed and 173 have participated in FFG’s Global Innovation Programme: an accelerator that brings innovators into the FFG ecosystem and connects them to partners, projects and suppliers that can help scale their solution. FFG has refined the programme offering over the last five years, and Ley says the current format will remain in 2024 and beyond. “Reflecting back when we started, it was a three-month programme two times a year, and now it’s a yearly programme with a much different level of support.” After participating in the programme, alumni stay in the FFG ecosystem and are able to take part in projects focused on issues such as chemical recycling and prototyping bio-based polyester.
FFG is supported by 25 partners, made up of major brands and groups like Inditex, Burberry, Chanel, Patagonia, the Laudes Foundation and Pangaia, as well as major suppliers including Shahi Exports, Welspun India and Teijin Frontier, who pay for access and input into FFG’s ecosystem of innovators and projects. Facilitating collaborative relationships between partners and innovators has resulted in 400 implementation cases and 15 projects like the Full Circle Textiles Project: scaling innovations in cellulosic recycling and the Viscose Traceability Pilot Project.
Now, it’s time to push forward on the most market-ready solutions, says Ley.
To drive implementation, FFG and its partners have selected around 30 innovators that will receive additional support from this year onwards. “We put a scaling support toolkit in place that helps them with supplier integration, specific fundraising and brand support, impact measurement, media amplification, and they also get special support in education with policy,” says Ley. “Through a lens of the most impactful areas, we picked a few chemical recyclers, a few wet and dry processing innovators, a few of the dying pigment innovators and few transparency traceability innovators.” The chosen innovators will not be publicly announced.
Despite extensive validation and piloting, innovators face plenty of challenges on the journey to scale commercially. “It took us a while to come to the learning that validation does not mean implementation is easy,” says Khanna. “There are 50 more roadblocks that we need to get through.” In 2023, FFG guided its alumni Renewcell through turbulent financial territory. “FFG offered their support for us when our Q3 earnings warning was released, specifically with their open letter to the fashion industry,” says Tricia Carey, chief commercial officer of Renewcell. “It was with their support, and that of Canopy’s, that helped to light a fire under brands and encouraged a few to make commitments to sourcing materials made with Circulose [Renewcell’s recycled cotton material].”
Finding the right partners
Prospective partners are selected based on a range of criteria, including their capacity and internal readiness for collaboration. “Often, especially if they share supply chains or have similar interests, brands will say why are we tackling this topic on our own? We want to learn from each other and work together,” says Khanna. “That’s part of our due diligence as we select the partners. How collaborative are they by nature? How much are they willing to share with innovators?”