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Brandix unleashes innovators in search for disruptive genius

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  • Launches ‘Disrupt Unlimited’ – a $ 1 m seed accelerator to find game-changing solutions for apparel, textile and accessories industries
The Brandix Group has committed up to US$ 1 million over three years on a new venture that is intended to fast-track Sri Lanka’s evolution into a knowledge and innovation hub for the apparel, textile and fashion accessories sectors. The new venture ‘Disrupt Unlimited’ will run a seed accelerator that will inspire, mentor and fund start-ups with breakthrough solutions to disrupt products, practices, processes and business models in these sectors. The objective of the company is to encourage innovators from across industries to develop technology-driven solutions that address challenges at every stage of the supply chains, leading to revolutionary changes in the way apparels, textiles and accessories are made, packaged, distributed and consumed. Like other seed accelerators across the globe, Disrupt Unlimited will provide start-ups with access to seed funding, advisors, practical workshops, networking opportunities, collaborative workspace and legal and administrative services, along with the opportunity to pitch game-changing ideas to venture capitalists and angel investors at an exclusive Demo Day. Among the company’s identified roles are collaboration with industry partners, securing the support of private partners, mentors, and advisors, development of idea/entrepreneur pipelines, building a network of investors in Sri Lanka and overseas, investing in start-ups, running seed accelerator programmes and supporting start-ups through commercialisation. This innovation-centric new entity was launched at Brandix Essentials on Friday, 21 February, with the start of a two-week ‘Disrupt-a-thon’ at which 20 innovators will grapple with eight industry-related challenges in collaboration with mentors from companies in the Brandix Group and from the Group associate Textured Jersey Lanka PLC. Speaking at the launch, Brandix Director Udena Wickremesooriya said Disrupt Unlimited is the first attempt to do something the Group had always believed in: innovate to disrupt the existing industry structure. Stressing that only innovation will truly drive the economy of a small country like Sri Lanka, he cited the example of Israel which has developed a US$ 4 billion IT industry. “The question is which domain we innovate in,” Wickremesooriya said, pointing out that the apparel industry is a substantial part of Sri Lanka’s economy, Sri Lanka has almost every component of the industry and the human capital, but products and processes have remained the same for a long period of time. “There is a unique opportunity for Sri Lankans to get together and make the country a hub for innovation in this industry,” he said. The eight challenges posed to participating innovators at the Disrupt-a-thon ranged from increasing machine operator productivity to the development of wash-free clothing and elimination of coloured thread in apparel manufacture. The eight challenges have also been posted on the Blog on the Disrupt Unlimited website www.disruptunltd.com opening them to innovators around the world. The inaugural Disrupt-a-thon participants working in teams with Brandix mentors and specialists have two weeks in which to submit conceptual solutions that could, if accepted as potential game-changers, be supported with seed capital for commercialisation. Disrupt Unlimited plans to conduct four Disrupt-a-thon challenges per year and to draw on existing founder pipelines including universities, the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission, MIT Global Startup Labs program, and Sri Lankans living overseas. Additionally, Disrupt Unlimited will help build this pipeline by running ‘founder dating’ events and collaborating with academic institutions to implement entrepreneurship programs. Selected entrepreneurs must have an idea for a disruptive, scalable innovation, as well as a team with the right skill-set to develop and commercialise it. A Group that employs approximately 47,000 people at 42 manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, Brandix partners with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Startup Labs’ (MIT-GSL) Sri Lanka program, the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission’s ‘Sahasak Nimevum’ program, and robotics competitions at several universities and institutions. The Group also has partnerships with the Universities of Colombo, Peradeniya, Moratuwa, Kelaniya, Sri Jayewardenepura and Wayamba and the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT). A preferred supplier to many global apparel labels, Brandix is credited with many firsts, among them, the first apparel manufacturer in the world to build a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-rated Green factory certified by the US Green Building Council (USGBC); the first in Sri Lanka to build a LEED Gold certified office complex; and the builder of the first Supply Chain City in South Asia – the 1,000-acre Brandix India Apparel City (BIAC).

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