Nike’s LAUNCH Seeks Out Sustainability in Latest Call for Innovation


As part of its “Better World” corporate citizenship commitment, Nike is working with some of America’s brightest governmental minds on an initiative to create more sustainable materials. 

Founded in 2010, LAUNCH is a strategic collaboration between NASA, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US State Department and Nike to seek out visionaries whose ideas and technologies can create a more sustainable world. 

This week, Nike convened 150 materials specialists, designers, academics, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and NGOs in green manufacturing at the two-day LAUNCH 2020 Summit, part of a multi-year incubation process. 

“Innovation is most powerful when it’s activated by collaboration between unlikely partners, coupled with investment dollars, marketing know-how and determination.” said Nike President and CEO Mark Parker. “Now is the time for big, bold solutions. Incremental change won’t get us where we need to go fast enough or at a scale that makes a difference.”

To propel the innovation, Nike is sponsoring the LAUNCH Systems Innovation Challenge, which is an open call competition for innovative ideas and processes to transform the way fabrics are made. The challenge will result in 10 product innovations which will be matched up with a team of investors and marketers to aid in the manufacturing process.[more]

In late May, LAUNCH will invite U.S. university students to submit their ideas in a nano-contest scheduled to coincide with the LAUNCH challenge.

“About 60 percent of the environmental footprint of a pair of Nike shoes is embedded in the materials used to make them,” said Hannah Jones, Nike’s VP of sustainable business and innovation. “When you multiply that across our business, and across the industry, it’s clear that innovation in sustainable materials is a huge opportunity, not just for Nike, but for the world.” 

Nike estimates that close to 150 billion garments were produced worldwide in 2010. By 2015, that number will rise to more than 400 billion square meters of fabric every year—enough to cover the state of California.

The LAUNCH System Challenge specifically addresses eliminating toxins in fabrics, enabling smarter recycling, creating smart and/or self-healing materials, and designing data generation and capture technologies for increased transparency across the entire ecosystem. “We are interested in innovations with potential to scale in 2 years, as well as game-changing early stage technologies and prototypes. Innovations can be business models, financial instruments, technologies and programs that accelerate research, education and capacity building,” 

Previous LAUNCH projects, which kickstarted in 2011, include the Carbon for Water project from astronaut Ron Garan, which distributed 1 million clean water filters to 4.5 million people in Kenya. The group has also distributed the Bioneedle, a biodegradable, implantable needle that delivers vaccines and dissolves in the body.