Collaborative Innovation: Reflections on Research for Smart Textiles in a Theatre and Performance Context

This paper presents interdisciplinary research initiated through collaboration in the area of smart textiles, prompted by the Scottish Textile Industry’s 10-year Strategy (accessed March 2019), which promotes diversification and innovation as one of the most important themes for the global textile industry. The Scottish context goes beyond simply the location of the research and strategic development of the textile industry, to outline and position the growth of the practice originating from a legacy of research at the ‘design-technology interface’ within a Scottish academic institution (which predated what we now term ‘smart textiles’). The paper will highlight collaborative work by Dr Sara Robertson and Sarah Taylor with Scottish heritage lace manufacturers, MYB Textiles, that has shaped the progression, design and product development of Light Emitting Lace as smart textiles over five years (2014-2019), through a series of interrelated projects. It maps and reflects on the shifting methods and roles that have emerged throughout the research, and shares how practice-based research can underpin innovation through collaborative co-design. Situated within a theatre and performance context, the paper thus offers insight into innovation for designing smart textiles from one-off, programmable textile artefacts, to industrial scale manufactured products for architectural and performance use.