University of Cambridge’s Virtual Accelerator To Help Tech Innovators Achieve A More Sustainable Fashion Industry

The University of Cambridge is offering a free virtual accelerator program for tech innovators and fashion entrepreneurs aimed at fast track sustainability in the fashion industry

There is no doubt about the high impact that the fashion industry is having on the environment. The fast fashion industry dominates the market and is especially demanding on resources and workforce. It accounts for ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, depletes natural resources -particularly water-, uses harmful chemicals in great quantities, and generates vast levels of waste and micro-plastic pollution once in use. Likewise, garment production is one of the world’s largest and most labor-intensive industries with estimates of 75 million people worldwide and mostly women. Crucially, the supply chain funnels more money toward modern slavery than any other industry besides tech. We need a more sustainable fashion industry so rapid innovation is needed to revolutionize the fashion industry as we know it.

Technology is the best ally that the fashion industry can find. From fiber modification to circular design principles and supply chain transparency, recent developments in tech along with the right education and principles can turn this situation around.

That is the goal of the CISL Accelerator. This free virtual accelerator program is looking for early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs with tech-driven innovations that have the potential to transform the sustainability of the fashion industry.

This free accelerator program will bring together a select cohort of innovators to help fast track their sustainability solutions. Delivered over six weeks of interactive online sessions, with contributors from the United Nations, the University of Cambridge, and experts from the fashion, investment and tech sectors.

Part-funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund, the CISL accelerator program is specially designed for innovators in sustainable fashion and available for free to SMEs based in England. The accelerator is particularly interesting for innovators working in the areas of:

· Material innovation and biotech – such as fibre innovation, enzymology and molecular biology

· Manufacturing and processing – supply chain transparency, blockchain technology, water and chemical use, waste reduction, and energy efficiency

· Packaging and delivery – innovation in packaging materials, shipping and logistics, and waste reduction

· People-centered solutions – improve health and safety for people in garment production, consumer education on sustainable consumption, and post-consumer solutions.

The accelerator consists of a six-week virtual program. The online sessions will be delivered every Wednesday from 9 September – 14 October, between 10:00 – 13:00 (only one exception: 14:00-16:00 on 23 September due to a speaker’s time zone), with a time commitment of between 2-3 hours per week. During those sessions and throughout the program, applicants will be able to explore the social and environmental challenges facing the fashion industry; to learn from leading innovators driving change in the fashion industry; to build their pitch, with insight on business planning, marketing, and storytelling; to hear from investors on the do’s and don’ts for accessing start-up funding and to build a network with other innovators in sustainable fashion.


Programme overview

Week one: Introduction and challenges – meet the cohort and explore the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry in its bid to be more sustainable

Week two: What does good look like – Understand the changes needed to revolutionise the fashion industry and learn about the tech innovations that are pioneering change.

Weeks three-four: Business labs – learn about start-up essentials of business planning, marketing, storytelling and pitching readiness.

Week five: Global market trends and lessons learnt from systems thinking – Explore the various challenges in different markets and learn how to apply systems thinking to ensure a resilient business model

Week six: Pitch practice – receive peer to peer, investor, and industry expert feedback on your innovation


Participants in the accelerator program will have the chance to learn from top industry experts, both in sustainability and from the fashion industry. Some of the contributors are Michael Stanley-Jones, Co-Secretary, UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Cath Tayleur, Senior Programme Manager of Business and Nature, CISL; Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion, UAL; Atul Bagai, Head of Country Office, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Ishwari Thopte, Business coach, advisor & tutor at LCF, former program manager at Centre for Fashion; Wendy Yu, Founder and CEO of Yu Holdings; Sean Ansett, President, At Stake Advisors; Shaunie Brett, Sustainability Consultant, Sussed Consulting; among others.