About 150 billion garments were produced around the world in 2010 and by 2015 the global apparel industry is expected to produce more than 400 billion square meters of fabric every year, Nike says. Materials make up about 60 percent of the environmental footprint of a pair of Nike shoes.
The Launch 2013 Challenge — innovation to transform the system of producing fabrics — is open to individuals and teams. The partners say they’re seeking innovations with potential to scale in two years, as well as game-changing early stage technologies and prototypes. Innovations can be business models, financial instruments, technologies and programs that accelerate research, education and capacity building. These could be bio-synthetic materials, applications that eliminate toxins in fabrics, or open technology platforms that provide accessibility to data that improves the analysis of sustainability impacts.
In August, the partners will select the 10 best ideas. Their creators will participate in the Launch Accelerator, a six-month program during which each innovator receive access to funding, pro-bono sessions with Launch partners and other resources to bring the sustainable materials ideas to fruition.
Three years ago Launch selected and helped accelerate Ron Garan’s clean water innovation. Independent of his work with NASA, Garan developed a concept to deliver clean water, energy and sanitation to poor communities, through the combination of sustainable development and carbon credits. As part of the Launch process, Garan connected with experts — and their investment dollars and business acumen — to make his innovation a reality. The Carbon for Water project has now distributed 1 million filters that provide clean water to 4.5 million people in Kenya.
Other Launch Challenges have focused on developing energy-efficiency and waste-reduction technologies such as Bioneedle, a biodegradable, implantable needle that delivers vaccines and dissolves in the body, allowing for mass distribution and minimal waste.
Last month, Nike partnered with Bluesign Technologies in an effort to use more sustainable materials and chemistries in its products. The partnership makes available Bluesign’s assessments tools and data to Nike’s materials suppliers.