Susanne Nejderås looks back on 2020 and forward to 2021
The year 2020 has, as for most people, been quite different, with new challenges and trials but also unimagined opportunities. This time has afforded us with the opportunity for reflection and insight as we have been forced to make rapid adjustments in quite a few respects. Over the course of the year, Smart Textiles has taken steps further towards its next phase as part of Science Park Borås, with a focus on national and international work. With everything we have achieved during the year, we turn our gaze forward to an exciting 2021 as well as the new normal.
A major focus during the year has been the international perspective, in which my Wallenberg assignment, our EU projects, as well as participation in European networks have been important components for developing our position as the internationally leading innovation partner in textile renewal. Participation in the UN’s work on the recently launched report on the challenges of the textile and fashion industry is another example of how our work is receiving increasing attention in the international arena. To be able to participate in continued such efforts, as the UN is now developing a roadmap for a sustainable textile and fashion industry, feels extra exciting and is well in line with our strategy.
Scholarship provides opportunities in Silicon Valley
In 2019, I received a scholarship that gave me the opportunity to further strengthen the international position of Smart Textiles in Silicon Valley, USA. The scholarship extended over 13 months and was funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. This meant, among other things, that during these thirteen months, I would live and work from Vinnova’s office in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, USA. The plan for my stay in Silicon Valley was carefully worked out and would serve as a compass to steer us towards set goals. However, I would never have been able to predict and prepare for a stay that would be so different and in which my plan would be so important to navigate towards. It was an unforgettable time in many ways, with numerous trials for me and my family. The pandemic, unlike most things in the world, is democratic and affects everyone. My experience, and a positive effect of the pandemic, is that it has created opportunities for contacts and collaborations that otherwise would have been difficult to establish during this time.
For three months we were in total lockdown. It was a tough and complicated time for me and my family, for the United States and especially California – even more so when COVID-19 cases increased again in mid-summer. The big tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, and Google were early in extending telework until mid-2021 and it was clear that it would take time for the US to move out of the pandemic. I feel that this difficult time has meant an openness, humility, and interest in collaboration to be able to solve problems together for a better world in the new normal. The Smart-Shirt project, which is being carried out together with Stanford University, quickly created interest, and several parties are now collaborating on a solution to be able to detect infectious diseases at an early stage, with COVID-19 as an example. The project is one of the results that makes me extra proud and which is the beginning of a future journey together.
National mission makes progress
Within the framework of our government assignment Textile & Fashion 2030, many contacts were established during my time in the USA, where our International Design Hackathon Conference 2021 began to take shape as an international concept. In addition to planning our conference, a number of other activities have been carried out within the government assignment with the establishment of a national platform. The companies’ connection has been in focus and through the tool and the so-called “Progress Model,” they receive help to take steps forward in their sustainability work. Due to the current situation, we have also further developed our exhibition concept Exposé. It is now also available digitally, a unique way to experience an exhibition.
Media exposure has continued to be extensive even during this year; we participated in the new Sveriges Television (SVT) series “The future around the corner” which premiered last autumn. We have been speakers at the WEAR Conference 2020 in San Francisco, participated in Digitally Yours, a digital conversation series through the Swedish Embassy in South Africa, as well as the conference Moldova in Fashion.
The future will not be the same as before. Nevertheless, Smart Textiles is looking forward to an exciting 2021.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!