Student's innovative design chosen as one of 10 best in worldwide competition

An innovative design for a ‘bacteria battery’ that can power a performance tracker as you train has been named one of the top 10 best ideas in a worldwide contest.

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student, Ellie Jones, developed a sports bra that uses a special species of bacteria to turn perspiration into electricity for this year’s Woolmark Performance Challenge, a prestigious design competition run every year for new ideas in performance wear.

Ellie, who is studying Textile Design, Technology and Innovation MSc at DMU, said it was an “incredible achievement” to have been chosen as one of the 10 finalists.

Ellie Jones

She designed a seamless sports bra, using technical fine knit. The bra is designed to be able to convert evaporating perspiration on the skin into electrical current – creating a renewable and potentially inexhaustive source of power to a wearable device.

The competition had more than 1,200 entries from 191 universities in 25 countries, and Ellie was one of just two UK finalists. For this year’s contest, Woolmark partnered with French brand Salomon to set a challenge to explore next generation running kits for long-distance mountain runners.

John Roberts, managing director of The Woolmark Company, said: "The Woolmark Performance Challenge has quickly cemented its place as the world's leading ideas platform for the sports and performance market, using innovative design and the technical nature of merino wool to deliver innovative solutions to improve the performance apparel market.

“The 10 concepts selected by the finalists demonstrate revolutionary, design-led thinking that can open up new opportunities for the sports and outdoor industry. We encourage them to explore their commercial viability."

Ellie said: “Never in a million years did I think I would be shortlisted as a top 10 finalist.

“Coming from a DMU Contour Fashion background, I had a strong understanding surrounding the creative and technical aspects of the design, but the high-tech and scientific nature of the idea demanded a lot of research. Understanding how the technology would translate in a textile was challenging and a great deal of perseverance was needed at times. It was so rewarding to know that my hard work had been recognised.”

As part of the competition, the finalists took part in an innovation accelerator programme, an online mentoring scheme designed to provide expert feedback on their concepts and to help elevate their design thinking. They were also invited to attend the final showcase and awards ceremony at ISPO Munich, one of the largest sports trade fairs, which has companies from all over the world attending to learn the latest developments.

She said: “Taking part in the Woolmark Performance Challenge has been an incredibly enriching experience and one that I am truly grateful for! It was an honour to be in the company of such exceptionally talented finalists. The opportunity to network with so many experts from the sport and wool industries was also highly beneficial.”

Ellie took a Master’s after studying Contour Fashion in which she specialised in performance sportswear for her final year.

She said: “Following the completion of my Master’s degree I would love to work for a high-performance sportswear or outdoor clothing brand. Sustainability and innovation have become great passions of mine and I am eager to pursue these passions in the industry environment.”

Commenting on her experience at DMU she said: “My experience of studying at DMU has been fantastic. I cannot thank the DMU academics enough for the support and guidance I’ve received over the past four years.”

“We are so proud of Ellie, it is such a brilliant achievement for her and testament to her hard work here on her undergraduate and now Master’s course,” said Buddy Penfold, Subject Lead for Contour and Textiles. “Biotech and smart garments are in such demand, it is a real growing market as we explore the possibilities with textiles.”

She said the different school disciplines – textiles, fashion, contour, footwear and fashion buying – worked closely together, helping to create a culture of innovative thinking from students.  

“Students are exposed to a range of creative disciplines and can spark ideas off each other. Our whole school approach is to foster creative thinking and innovation, from our industry level labs to the research we are conducting into new fibres and sustainable processes through our researchers in TEAM (Textile Engineering and Materials), ensuring designs are commercially viable.”

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Posted on Friday 23rd December 2022

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