Textiles that repair rips and adapt to the release of sweat

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Belgian textile companies that are using innovation to focus on a niche market most certainly have a future, one in which the Centexbel innovation centre plays a crucial role. “The things you can do with textiles are inconceivable,” says Bob Vander Beke, commercial director at Centexbel, the research centre and laboratory serving the Belgian textile industry.  Centexbel may be considered the saviour of the Belgian textile sector, which is being threatened with bankruptcy. The centre has a staff of 140 and is located in the Ghent technology park, which is best-known for its biotech companies. “A number of companies, such as Umicore, Bekaert and Janssen Pharmaceutica have substantial research departments in Belgium,” says Vander Beke. For textile SME’s, Centexbel is a blessing: “Companies with a workforce of 25 do not have the time, staff or laboratory facilities to develop new products, even though they need to innovate in order to survive. Without us many of these companies would be weaker”, Vander Beke explains. Devan, a chemical company based in Ronse that makes textile thread, is an example of one of these. Together with Centexbel it has developed a ‘dynamic’ material that adapts to the release of sweat. Centexbel is also collaborating on a project that was launched by the fishing industry, an industry which sees a huge number of accidents involving filleting knives. One of the innovations are self-repairing packs, allowing for rips in fishing clothes to automatically grow shut. Centexbel’s fame has spread beyond Belgium’s borders, and it is one of the two companies that approve tents for refugees on behalf of the United Nations.

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