School of Design unveils £4.4 million facilities upgrade

A year-long programme of investment worth £4.4 million has culminated in a day of celebration.

Our School welcomes leading industrialists from the textile and design sectors and University of Leeds alumni.

The day’s activities centred on the Clothworkers’ South Building, where many of the new facilities are located. Originally opened as the Man-Made Fibres Building in 1956, it has long been home to major innovations in fabrics, colour science and printing and serves as a reflection of the region’s rich textiles heritage. Visitors attended a networking reception, a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, and tours of the new facilities.

Among the improvements are new laboratories, exhibition areas and student spaces, as well as new facilities for weaving, knitting, digital printing, coloration and colour communication.

Taking pride of place is a cutting-edge 3D weaving loom that is the only one of its kind in the UK. The loom forms the heart of the new 3D Weaving Innovation Centre, which will develop advanced prototypes for a wide range of sectors, from aerospace to healthcare. This Centre places the School at the forefront of 3D weaving technology, design and production, allowing multi-layer, multi-level wovens to be developed by the centre’s team alongside textile manufacturers.

The 3D Weaving Innovation Centre is part-funded through a £881,191 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Strategic oversight for this funding was provided by Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and European Structural and Investment Funds Sub-Committee, which is chaired by Roger Marsh OBE (pictured right) – an alumnus of the University and a member of its council.

Speaking at this event, Mr Marsh said: “Innovation is part of the fabric of Leeds City Region and its textile industry, in particular, is central to our innovation pedigree.

“We’ve proven ourselves to be an unrivalled hub of pioneers and innovators throughout our history, and I’m confident the 3D Weaving Innovation Centre will add even more value to our already enviable heritage.”

Dominic Dormeuil, President of luxury textiles firm Dormeuil and another alumnus of the University, was also a speaker at the building’s opening. Dormeuil is based in Paris and London but has a commercial base in Dewsbury and a long-term partnership with weavers in Yorkshire. Its fabrics have clothed the well-dressed and famous for decades – from The Beatles to James Bond, from politicians to royalty.

Mr Dormeuil spoke positively of his time at the institution and of the new partnership between our School and his company, saying: “I am a firm believer that strong cooperation between universities and companies is key to the successful research of new innovative processes and products.

“Dormeuil are now looking to work with the School in developing new products and introduce innovations in to the fabrics that will be world beaters and leaders to be showcased around the world.”

Professor Chris Carr, Head of the School of Design, noted that the new improvements have the potential to both enhance and cement our School’s research and development capabilities, and its capacity for both technical and creative innovation. Researchers in the School representing a wide range of disciplines currently work with household names like Unilever, Adidas, L’Oréal, the National Portrait Gallery and Dyson.

Professor Carr said of the investment: “The new equipment and facilities are a key part of the University’s aim to invest in knowledge and opportunity – to provide the very best for our researchers and students and to enhance the excellent partnerships we have with the very best designers and industrialists across the region and indeed the world.

“Our investment will also help us continue to enhance productive relationships between design and technology.”