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North-east university teams with Harris Tweed Hebrides

By Kyle Ritchie

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Robert Gordon University’s is joining forces with Harris Tweed Hebrides, as the company looks to explore product developments and new international markets.

The organisations will work together for two years under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the aim of providing year-round and sustainable business demand for the Harris Tweed Hebrides brand and the home weaver industry on the isles of Lewis and Harris.

Harris Tweed Hebrides, which is the largest of the three tweed mills currently in operation, produces 65 per cent of all Harris Tweed manufactured. The organisation works with a network of 140 skilled weavers, who all work independently on a treadle loom.

Under the guidance of RGU academics, Josie Steed from Gray’s School of Art, and Karen Cross from the School of Creative and Cultural Business, and a KTP associate, Beth Wilson, the partnership will look to embed sustainable business practices and a culture of innovation-led design into Harris Tweed Hebrides.

Robert Gordon University has teamed with Harris Tweed Hebrides.
Robert Gordon University has teamed with Harris Tweed Hebrides.

Marketing manager at Harris Tweed Hebrides Ruth Masson said: “We’re looking forward to collaborating with the RGU team on this exciting KTP project.

"Beth will be based at our mill in the Outer Hebrides working closely with our production, design, marketing and sales teams on new product development and building on our sustainability credentials.

"Together we aim to target new markets and keep Harris Tweed Hebrides at the forefront of the textiles industry.”

Josie Steed said: “This is a very exciting project and presents a huge opportunity for the university to work closely with a very well-known organisation to support its ambitions to expand into new markets.

“One of the big challenges which Harris Tweed Hebrides encounters is the seasonality of its product offer. We are going to be exploring opportunities in the growing accessories and interiors markets, and non-seasonal products that could help the mill and weavers to have year-round work.

“By partnering with the university, Harris Tweed Hebrides will gain a raft of technical expertise and resources which will hopefully help the organisation to evolve and flourish.”

This project is funded by Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme and co-funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide scheme that has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.

A KTP serves to meet a core strategic need and to identify innovative solutions to help that business grow. It often delivers significant increased profitability for business partners as a direct result of the partnership through improved quality and operations, increased sales and access to new markets.

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