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Collaborate to Innovate: Unilever seeks help with new technical challenges

Company’s new Open Innovation portal receives over 1000 ideas after six months

Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers, has released a new set of challenges to the world's innovation community to help the business deliver on its sustainable growth agenda.

In March 2012, the company's Open Innovation team launched a new online platform which offered experts the opportunity to find some of the technical solutions it needs to achieve its ambition of doubling the size of its business while reducing its environmental impact, as set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Following the success of the platform, Unilever has now unveiled the details of another three research projects for which its Research & Development department is seeking external know-how.

The company hopes it will receive a similar response to when it announced its first ten open innovation "wants" earlier this year. The platform has now received more than 1,000 submissions, ranging from ideas which tackle the challenges set by Unilever, to other technical solutions and new product ideas.

"We've been hugely impressed by the quality, ingenuity and inventiveness of the submissions that we've received since we launched our Open Innovation platform four months ago," said Jon Hague, VP Open Innovation, Unilever.

"We have a long track-record of working with external partners to develop new technologies, so we were already very aware of the strength and depth of the innovation talent which exists outside of Unilever. However this was the first time we have shared our research projects in such an open forum and it's very exciting to have tapped into a new community of inventors who share our passion for sustainable innovation and creating a better future for our consumers and the environment."

Unilever is in advanced discussions with several technology companies as a result of publishing its first set of “wants” in March. The challenges ranged from technologies which could create lighter and more sustainable packaging, to laundry products which perform just as well with less water and lower temperatures.

The three new “wants” which Unilever is seeking collaboration on span two of its four global categories, Homecare and Refreshments. They are:

  • New technologies which break down fatty deposits left on clothes and hard surfaces in an efficient, odorless and environmentally friendly way. The solution could be incorporated as an ingredient in the detergent formulation or work as a pre-treatment application.
  • New technologies which enable us to reduce the sugar in our ready-to-drink teas by 30 per cent, without impacting on their taste or mouthfeel.
  • New technologies which enable us to stabilize natural red color cost-effectively, for use in our fruit and dairy products. The solution must maintain the stability of the color throughout its shelf life and be water soluble.

All ideas submitted on all 13 wants will be assessed by Yet2.com, an independent open innovation consultancy, before any reach Unilever's Open Innovation team.

Since Unilever's Open Innovation team was founded in 2009, the number of research projects which involve external collaboration has increased from 25 per cent to around 60 per cent.

Unilever R&D involves over 6,000 professionals, six strategic centres for global R&D and 31 major product development centres. The strategic centres are located in Trumbull, US, Port Sunlight and Colworth in the UK, Vlaardingen in The Netherlands, Bangalore in India and Shanghai in China. In 2011, our investment in R&D was around €1bn.

Paul Matthews - Unilever Corporate Media Relations Manager

01372 945 925 / 0775 276 8888

paul.matthews@unilever.com

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