The Woolmark Company, together with the French sporting goods manufacturer Salomon, has announced the three winners and seven finalists of the most innovative concepts of this year’s Performance Challenge Awards. In total, more than 191 universities from 25 countries took part.

    The Performance Challenge Award recognizes groundbreaking innovations in the sports and outdoor sectors. This year’s theme was long-distance running in the mountains, for which students were tasked with developing the next generation of running gear, with a focus on the use of durable biofibers and the innovative nature of merino wool.

    “The Woolmark Performance Challenge has quickly cemented its place as the world’s leading ideas platform for the athletic and performance market, leveraging innovative design and the technical nature of merino wool to deliver innovative solutions to improve the performance apparel market,” said John Roberts, CEO of The Woolmark Company, in a statement.

    This year’s “Bold and Breakthrough Innovations” are ones that reinvent running apparel from head to toe. These include Sweat-Activated Cooling Technologies, Auxetic Mycelium Fabrics, Bacterial Bio Batteries, Thermo-Chromic Structures and more.

    The winners of the Woolmark Performance Challenge 2022. Image: Woolmark

    Internship Winner – “Keradapt Merino”

    University of Oregon student Michael Orlow won a paid three-month internship at Salomon for his 3D printed waterproofing concept that most impressively met the design brief. Orlov’s Keraadapt Merino is a waterproof merino wool fabric made with the help of 3D printing technology and using keratin obtained during previous processing. With the help of body scans, the seamless print of the entire garment is examined for environmental and physical stress.

    “Michael was able to respond to the task by transferring technologies from biomedical research. This was the brief of the Salomon creative team. The proposal to blend wool with other natural fibers opens up a new field for sustainable innovation,” says Florian Traullé, Salomon R&D Footwear Manager.

    Research Grant Winner – “Rapid Decomposing Merino”

    Milan’s Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA) student Giulia Ciola received a prize of 10,000 euros for the idea that has the greatest potential for commercial development: she designed a trail running set that balances of the earth’s natural resources nurtures and maintains. With an innovative blend of merino wool, milk fibers, seacell, crabyon and nettle, Ciola’s concept is aimed at trail runners who want to compost their clothes at the end of their life.

    “Giulia’s Rapid Decomposing Wool is a response to the growing need and interest in sustainable solutions for the apparel market. The focus is on promoting biodiversity. Their focus on the full life cycle of a product is very close to the future of performance wear by highlighting the environmental benefits, natural recyclability and regenerative properties of the wool fibre,” comments Julie Davies, The Woolmark Company General Manager for Education and Innovation.

    Adaptable Innovation Award Winner – “Adapting to Athletes”

    A special award went to the University of Cincinnati student Chloe Jerolaman, whose design concept convinced Salomon because of its great potential for commercial use. Jerolaman receives a three-month paid internship at Salomon for their Adapting to Athletes concept, which involves developing a trail running kit that promotes inclusion and is specifically designed for athletes with disabilities. Accessibility continues to be an issue for the fashion and outdoor industries.

    “Chloe surprised us as she was exploring a topic outside of the original brief. It fits in with the inclusion projects being explored at Salomon R&D. We want to nurture her talent and perspective by exploring the concept Chloe proposed,” explains Traullé.

    The finalists

    Other finalists include Ayush Verma of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India for his “Merino Leather”; Clint Worton from the University of Oregon for his “sweat-activated cooling” concept and Ellie Jones from the UK’s De Montfort University for her bacterial battery, which converts the evaporation of sweat on the skin into electricity.

    Jack Dorrance from Utah State University impressed with his “Reflection Base System”, which keeps athletes warm or cool depending on the environment; and Lorenzo Caola from the Milan Istituto Europeo di Design with his clean energy project “Movement Reactive Light Pulses”.

    Pietro Lo Presti of Politecnico di Milano was recognized for his merino wool blend with mushroom fibers “Auxetic Mycelium Fabric” and Rachel Moody of Nottingham Trent University for her sustainable alternative to fleece mid-layer, “Thermo-chromic Comfort”.

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

    Winner Institution Prize

    The Albstadt-Sigmaringen University of Applied Sciences, Germany, was honored as the winner of the Institutional Award with a €10,000 prize for generating the highest number of qualitative submissions.

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