What is the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies?

ICLT building

The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) is a globally unique research and education centre based at The University of Northampton.  ICLT engages in cross-disciplinary research that responds to the scientific and technological needs of the automotive, fashion, footwear and allied leather industries.

Modern understanding of traditional and new leather processing chemistries and techniques extends the properties and performance of leather and related biomaterials.  The research programme impacts on diverse sectors, which include medical and technological applications. Cross-curricular partnerships take leather developments into engineering, media and fashion.

Leather Degrees and Professional Training

Professional Training

Areas of interest

The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies currently has research interests in the following areas:

  • understanding and modelling the science underpinning leather technology
  • the viscoelastic response of leather to processing conditions
  • the role of the solvent in leather manufacture, including the replacement of water
  • the development of new tanning methods from traditional processes
  • the application of novel chemistries to make new leathers and collagenic biomaterials
  • the role of biochemistry in leather making
  • modelling the mechanical processing of leather
  • the management of the byproducts and waste from leather manufacture; recycling and up-cycling
  • sustainability of leather manufacture, including the environmental impact of processing
  • applied collagen research for medical applications, such as scaffolds for cell growth
  • the deterioration and conservation of leather and related heritage artefacts

Recent projects

Major projects in recent years include:

  • RESTORM: a multinational, multimillion euro project on environmental impact, funded by the EU
  • Dermagenesis, a multinational, multi-million pound project on the creation of artificial skin, grown in the laboratory, funded by the EU.
  • Collaboration with a company in USA on the creation of a different kind of artificial collagenic biomaterial
  • EU funded project on the development of archival quality bookbinding leather

Doctoral studies constitute a major component of the research programme in ICLT.  Recent projects included:

  • Composting of tannery waste hair
  • The microbiology of clean leather processing
  • Studies in leather conservation
  • Self-degradability in leather

Current projects

Commercial in confidence projects include:

  • UK: Novel system for delivering reagents into the collagen substrate
  • UK: Application of ionic liquids to novel chemistry for leather processing
  • France: Study of the kinetics of tanning with complexed chromium(III) salt
  • Italy: Study of the fundamentals of the materials science of leather during processing
  • USA: Study of novel chemistry in post tanning
  • Vietnam: Developing the infrastructure for a modern leather shoe manufacturing industry
  • Colombia: Consultancy in the application of improvements in the environmental impact of leather production

External partners

The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers

The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers shield

Founded by amalgamation in 1444, the Leathersellers Company is one of the London Guilds.

It has had a long association with the leather provision of the University of Northampton, having been involved in its operation and supporting it for many years.

The Leather Conservation Centre

The Leather Conservation Centre logo

LCC is one of the few institutions around the world dedicated to the preservation, conservation and maintenance of leather and collagen artefacts, most of which have historical and heritage importance.

The Centre also engages in training and research into improved methods of leather conservation.

The National Leather Collection (NLC)

National Leather Collection logo

NLC of Northampton is a nationally and internationally important collection of leather-based historical artefacts from around the world.

Its unique focus on leather makes it unusual and hence a valued resource for aesthetic, technological and design studies.

The University of Leicester

University of Leicester shield

UoL is a leading UK university: in particular, its chemistry provision is world class.

There is a collaboration with ICLT to develop novel chemistries coming out of their research programme for application to the leather industry.  The benefits include not only more efficient and effective routes manufacture, but also the creation of new biomaterials and options for waste management and upcycling.

Educational co-operation is a feature of the ongoing research programme.  Countries currently involved include:

  • PR China
  • South Africa
  • Zimbabwe
  • Pakistan
  • India
  • Mexico

ICLT Staff

Staff working within ICLT include:

Ms Rachel Garwood, Director of ICLT

Ms Rachel Garwood
01604 892056

Professor Anthony D. Covington, Director of Research

Prof Anthony Covington
01604 892987

Dr Will Wise, Senior Lecturer

Dr Will Wise
01604 892156

Mr Karl Flowers, Associate Lecturer

Mr Karl Flowers
01604 892343

Dr Anne Lama, Senior Lecturer

Dr Anne Lama
01604 892058


ICLT Students

ICLT currently has two research students, Letitia Melo Dos Santos and Keib Mmapatsi.

Leticia Melos Dos Santos, PhD Student


Leticia’s research addresses the use of enzymes to modify the chemistry of plant extracts currently used in so-called vegetable tanning, to gain advantage in processing.

Keib Mmapatsi, MPhil Student

Keib Mmapatsi


Keib’s research addresses the use of a novel solvent system that is environmentally benign as a new medium for tanning.


ICLT Studentships

Research (MPhil, PhD) studentships are occasionally available: usually they will be associated with a specific project, often industry sponsored.

Working with ICLT

If you are interested in working with ICLT please contact Rachel.Garwood@northampton.ac.uk


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