IET unveils world’s first biodegradable school backpack

27th September 2022
Paige West

Outfits that decompose after they've been worn out, mind-reading headwear and clothes that can regulate your temperature: this is the fashion of the future as predicted by Generation Alpha.

A new study of 5-13-year-olds by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) asked children to predict the clothes we’d be wearing in the future, with the integration of technology coming out as a clear theme throughout.

In the next 40 years, a third predict we’ll see flying shoes (35%) and clothes that teleport you to different places (33%) on our shop shelves. Six in ten (60%) believe we’ll be able to buy a hat that allows you to play video games with your mind and a third (37%) foresee telepathic headwear.

As well as the benefits to our recreational lives however, children also feel fashion will play a key role in wider societal change and helping to solve sustainability challenges. Three-quarters (74%) envisage outfits that are able to decompose leaving no waste behind, half (49%) anticipate clothes that can regulate your temperature and 41% can picture bionic trousers that help people with disabilities to walk. A third (34%) even say lots of their friends already wear gadgets which help them do more in their day-to-day lives.

Our young people’s style choices also place function over form, with the majority of kids claiming that garments which are made sustainably (86%) or help improve people’s health (71%) are more important than ‘looking cool’.

Fashion plays a significant role in kids’ culture with recognition of brands being established from an increasingly young age – nine in ten (89%) children like to decide which clothes they wear and 84% choose the backpack they wear to school – one of the few opportunities to express their style choices amongst their friends.

So, to inspire our Gen A fashionistas and spark their excitement about how STEM can help make their fashion predictions come true, the IET has partnered with global fashion brand HYPE. and Biophilica – winners of the IET/Fashion District Manufacturing Futures Innovation Challenge 2021 for their ground-breaking, fully biodegradable, TreeKind leaf leather – to create the world’s first biodegradable backpack.

The prototype has been created to celebrate the launch of the IET’s ‘Backpack to the Future’ campaign – a national competition inviting 5-13-year-olds to design their own backpack with STEM-inspired gadgets or capabilities that help them do incredible things.

The winner of the ‘Backpack to the Future’ competition will have a working prototype of their design made and will even get to see a backpack inspired by their design displayed in HYPE.’s flagship London store, allowing kids to come and see part of their vision of future fashion brought to life by one of their favourite brands.

Mira Nameth from Biophilica, commented: “It’s fascinating to see young people's predictions for what fashion of the future will be like. As passionate innovators in our industry it’s also really encouraging that so many are striving for a more sustainable future.

“Our Treekind material is free of plastic, recyclable, and compostable. To partner with the IET and a high street brand like HYPE. to make the world’s first biodegradable school backpack is extremely exciting. STEM is now at the heart of innovations in the fashion industry and these developments will inevitably continue to move from high end to high street in the coming years.”

According to the research, only one in ten (10%) kids think that engineers work in fashion and just 16% can understand how science and fashion are related. The IET’s competition aims to change perceptions and show children how they are able to combine their passion for fashion with a STEM related career.

Bav Samani, HYPE. Co-Founder and CEO, added: “HYPE. has been at the forefront of children’s lifestyle-fashion for over a decade. Teaming up with the IET and Biophilica just had to be done. Working together to pioneer sustainable developments in the field and encouraging more young people to get excited about STEM.

“We can’t wait to see the designs that kids come up with as part of the competition, and to turn one of the ideas into a reality will be incredible with the involvement of our Carnaby, London Flagship!”

The competition is open between 27th September and 30th October 2022. To enter, children simply have to sketch their backpack design along with a description of how it works.

Entries will be judged on originality, feasibility, creativity, and engineering practices by a panel of experts including Professor Danielle George from the IET, Dr Ciara McGrath, the IET’s current Young Woman Engineer of the Year, Bav Samani and Liam Green, co-founders of HYPE. and Mira Nameth founder of Biophilica.

Professor Danielle George MBE, IET Fellow and judge of the 2021 Manufacturing Futures fashion competition, commented: “Over the past decade we’ve seen an expanding fusion of fashion, engineering, and technology through the universal rollout of things like wearables and adaptive clothing.

“It’s inevitable that these developments will continue to progress over the coming years, and we’ll see a growing number of opportunities for engineers and technicians in the world of fashion.

“With this competition we hope that children can really connect with their creative sides and generate some fantastic ideas for clothes that can help to engineer a better world – and also that it demonstrates to them that STEM related careers represent a world of possibilities.”

Alongside the competition, the IET, Biophilica and HYPE. have released a ‘Factpack’ – a number of fun facts demonstrating to children the links between fashion and STEM – and illustrating the ways in which engineers and technicians are currently involved in the fashion industry.

For more information on the campaign and to download the entry form and ‘Factpack’ please visit:

Top 10 fashion items hoped for in the future:

  1. Biodegradable clothes (74%)
  2. Clothes that can regulate temperature (49%)
  3. Bionic trousers that can help people with disabilities to walk (41%)
  4. Clothes that give you energy (38%)
  5. Shoes that can generate electricity (35%)
  6. Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities (35%)
  7. A watch that can measure and boost energy levels (34%)
  8. A backpack that can heat food (32%)
  9. Clothes that grow at the same rate as you (28%)
  10. Clothes which can tell if you’re getting ill (27%) / heal you if you get a cut or bruise (27%) 

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