Interview with Dany Charest
TechniTextile Québec has a mandate to support technical textiles sector
TechniTextile Québec, a cluster created in 2017, brings together industrial, technical, scientific and government stakeholders involved in the value chain of technical textile materials in Québec. The cluster’s purpose is to foster partnerships with industrial, commercial and institutional organisations to create value, support innovation, boost commercialisation and foster job creation from a sustainable development standpoint. General Manager Dany Charest speaks to TechnicalTextile.net about technical textiles in Canada, especially Quebec, innovations and government support.
TT: What is the size of the market for technical textiles in Canada? At what rate is it growing?
The technical textiles in Quebec is an innovative and high added value sector. The industry is composed of more than 400 companies (both manufacturers and users of technical textiles) and is employing approximately 10k+ workers.
TechniTextile Québec has a mandate to support the sector which produces more than 45 per cent of Canadian production and generates more than $1.5 billion. These revenues are expected to see a stable growth rate.
TT: What kind of support and activities does TechniTextile engage in?
TechniTextile Québec has been working in conjunction with companies and other key members of the textile industry. Serving as a vehicle for collaboration, our textile cluster promotes innovation, enhanced opportunities, commercialication and companies' competitiveness.
Our main mission is to promote the manufacturers in the technical textile sector and increase their presence both nationally and internationally. Our portal Weave, for example, allows us to list all companies but also give them the visibility and recognition they deserve. We also support several projects to enhance their technologies and processes so they can stand out in their respective fields.
TT: Which are the major regions manufacturing technical textiles in Canada?
In Quebec, there are two major regions that contribute heavily to the global technical textile market: Montréal with a concentration of 28 per cent of factories, and Montérégie with 19 per cent. The other regions are Centre-du-Québec and Chaudière-Appalaches.
TT: What kind of research does TechniTextile do?
TechniTextile promotes the industry and supports its key players by favouring cooperative innovation. To that end, we financially help companies to carry out collaborative projects with great impact for the entire industry. With the ACCORD programme, we can finance 50 per cent of the project as long as we have 3 different manufacturers collaborating on it. This type of condition demonstrates our interest in collaboration and business networking. Our project portfolio continues to grow to reach nearly Ca$5 million this year.
TT: What amount of technical textiles does Canada export annually?
Quebec exports to a wide variety of markets around the world, for a combined amount of Ca$580 million in 2019, which is about 26 per cent of the entire Canadian textile industry export. The exports had a slight slowdown in 2017 due to the ALENA (NAFTA) renewal, but they bounced back in 2018 and 2019.
TT: What kind of technologies and innovations are manufacturers in Quebec investing in?
In order to remain competitive, manufacturers in Quebec are looking forward to remaining innovative and are investing in the following fields:
- Advanced textile materials which allow the integration of textile technologies into other products to increase the performance and added value of the finished products.
- Bio-sourced and recycled fibres to be integrated into existing products.
- Efficient equipment and machinery for spinning, weaving and knitting in order to reduce labour intensity and increase productivity.
- The innovation potential of natural fibres such as hemp and milkweed.
TT: What kind of government support does the industry receive?
The Quebec textile industry is a structured cluster. In that sense, the government supports the industry and invests in its growth through various programmes. TechniTextile, for example, is supported by MÉIÉ and its ACCORD programme aims to support collaborative innovation and collaborative projects.
CSMO Textile is the sectoral labour committee for the textile industry. It helps define and respond to the workforce development needs of companies in the sector.
CTT and Vestechpro are specialised in supporting industrial research and technological transfer, while Investment Quebec helps the companies to improve their equipment, to explore new local sources and expand to new markets.
TT: How does the industry incorporate sustainability into its operations and products?
The Quebec technical textiles industry aims for sustainability by integrating innovative methods and future-oriented tools. Our sustainable development focuses on the environmental and technological aspects of textile process and production.
As mentioned before, the introduction of biosourced fibre and recycled fibres with existing products is an important field of research. The textile-to-textile recycling is also a process the industry is very interested in, and several closed loops are in development. We also use hydroelectricity to power the equipment and only eco-friendly chemicals for the dyeing and finishing sector.
(Interviewer: Shilpi Panjabi)