Abstract The purpose of this paper is to examine how UK companies in the textile sector obtain ideas for innovations. The trend towards the production of commodity textiles in low wage cost countries is forcing the closure of many UK textile companies. A number of these UK companies have moved away from commodity textiles, and now specialise in niche markets with highly technical products which are based on high performance synthetic fibres. The ability to develop innovative new products can be a source of competitive advantage for these companies and the generation of ideas for new products or ‘creativity’ is the first step in this innovation process. An exploratory survey is used to examine the profitability of different sources of new product ideas that are currently used by companies that consume high performance synthetic fibres. Based on the key literature themes, and the survey findings, an exploratory multiple case study approach is adopted involving eight organisations. The case findings reveal many discrepancies between actual and recommended practice in the support of creativity.