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PlatformE acquires Cambridge startup to optimise fashion supply chains with AI

PlatformE Catalyst AI
Image credit: PlatformE / Catalyst AI

Fashion technology scaleup PlatformE has acquired Cambridge, UK-based machine learning company Catalyst AI for an undisclosed sum.

The deal, shared exclusively with UKTN, will combine Catalyst AI’s supply chain optimisation machine learning tools with PlatformE’s made-to-order fashion services.

The companies did not disclose the full terms of the deal.

Founded in 2015, PlatformE’s software platform can be integrated into fashion supply chains so that brands can manufacture clothes on-demand instead of in bulk.

It has created an application program interface (API) that lets the disparate systems of fashion brands, retailers and factories communicate with one another. The London-headquartered firm also offers a 3D digital product creation tool for retailers, which lets consumers create bespoke items of clothing on-demand.

The business-to-business firm has worked with luxury fashion brands including Gucci, Dior, Fendi and Kering.

It also has a network of “digital-savvy” factories to produce fashion items at speed and on-demand. The company says it can shorten the turnaround time from samples to retail from “many months to less than six weeks”.

Its goal is to reduce waste in traditional fashion supply chains, which sees large quantities of clothing produced in advance. This can lead to oversupply when consumers purchase less than forecasted and the surplus is usually destroyed or added to landfill.

Catalyst AI, which was formed out of the Computer Science and Technology Department at the University of Cambridge in 2017, has created a machine learning platform called Catalyst Engine that developers can use to build AI solutions. Its machine learning and data science tools have been used across industries, including agritech and fintech, but it has recently shifted its focus to fashion supply chains.

It has previously worked with companies such as British Airways, Jaguar Land Rover and Transport for London.

“The digitalisation of supply chain processes is leveraging data that allows us to reduce uncertainty and improve decision making through every step of the supply chain, from procurement of raw materials to purchase by customers,” said Catalyst AI co-founder and CTO, Dr Ahmed Zaidi. “PlatformE is on the front of this wave, so it is the perfect place for our technology to be applied.”

The acquisition will see PlatformE gain Catalyst AI’s team of 16 staff, the majority of which are researchers at Oxford, Cambridge and other research institutions.

Raymond Siems, CEO and co-founder of Catalyst AI, told UKTN that the deal has closed and the integration process is due to be completed by the end of March next year.

“We’re delighted to strengthen our capabilities with Catalyst AI’s innovative intellectual property, and will benefit immensely from the team’s expertise and their network of talent in one of the world’s leading data science ecosystems,” said PlatformE co-founder and CEO, Gonçalo Cruz.

PlatformE competes with the likes of Unmade in the production space and ThreeKit in digital products.

It is backed by the founders of Net-a-Porter and Farfetch, along with Nordstrom, Amorim and TLF Ventures.