Turning a troubled textile hub into a thriving business cluster

Turning a troubled textile hub into a thriving business cluster
By Euronews
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For two centuries Borås has been Sweden’s ‘textile town’. Like many Western centres of the sector it was hit hard by a financial crisis in the early 1970s. But the local industry learned how to respond using new technologies and an effective business cluster

One company, TST Sweden makes protective overalls that seem a perfect marriage of research and technology, a unique product that offers protection up to 3,000 bars of pressure. They are marketed by a Swedish SME and manufactured by a subcontractor in Borås,

“We work with niche products. We need to be very close to the production to continue the improvment., to shorten delivered times and also to be able to do the changes that our customers need,” says Jörgen Lillieroth, TST’s managing director.

The product represents 60% of the company’s 5 million euro turnover and has boosted the staff to 12, with 3 new jobs in the past two years. .

The idea of pressure-resistant overalls was born five years ago. For the creators the business cluster at Borås, was a natural home.

Jörgen Lillieroth highlights the benefits of business clusters: “a group of 6 to 7 persons was sitting down trying to improve the product. And the students from the textile school made 20 samples. I think we did it to a cost of one tenth that it should have been if we had done it by ourselves.”

With 180 businesses, 1,000 students, 60 researchers and five labs with their own technology specialities, the cluster has reinvented the sector’s working methods, bringing all the actors together. SMEs with the relevant technology but no experience of textiles can collaborate with those who have.

“When a project comes to us, we have researchers, technicians and also students adding their competences to the project. And when the product is ready for marketing, we have both incubator service and other marketing specialised people,” says Susanne Nejderås, manager of one of participating companies, Smart Textiles.

Since the launch of the cluster in 2006, some 50 new products have been created and 130 prototypes developed.

The Borås textiles cluster also works with others in different sectors, the wood sector is one example as, Nils-Krister Persson, the Smart Textiles’ Technology Lab explains: “We could really benefit from each other. They (the wood sector) need a new market because the reading of newspapers is going down. And we need more sustainable fibers, as the price of cotton is going up.”

So what is the key to success in business (our customary question to contributors to Business Planet)?

According to Jörgen Lillieroth, Managing Director, TST Sweden it is: “the meeting between companies, university, test and researches institutes… it always leads to the next level.”

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