Collaborate to Innovate: Unilever seeks help with new technical challenges to support sustainable growth

London/Rotterdam – 10th October 2012: 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 six 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, odourless 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 stabilise natural red colour cost-effectively, for use in our fruit and dairy products. The solution must maintain the stability of the colour throughout its shelf life and be water soluble.

All ideas submitted on all 13 wants will be assessed by Yet2.com(Link opens in a new window), 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.

ENDS

Notes for the editor

For more information, please contact Paul Matthews, Unilever Corporate Media Relations Manager on 0207 822 6605 or paul.matthews@unilever.com(Link opens in a new window)

The Open Innovation site can be found at: www.unilever.com/innovation/collaborating-with-unilever

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.

Safe Harbour

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘will’, ‘aim’, ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘believes’, ‘vision’, or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Group. They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.

Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are; Unilever’s global brands not meeting consumer preferences; increasing competitive pressures; Unilever’s investment choices in its portfolio management; finding sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and national disasters; the sovereign debt crisis in Europe; financial risks; and failure to meet high product safety and ethical standards; managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London stock exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Group’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2011 and the Annual Report and Accounts 2011. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

Unilever PLC

Unilever House
100 Victoria Embankment
London
EC4Y 0DY

+44 (0) 20 7822 5252
Press-Office.London@Unilever.com

Unilever NV

Weena 455
3013AL Rotterdam

www.unilever.nl(Link opens in a new window)

+31 (0) 10 217 4000
mediarelations.rotterdam@unilever.com

Latest tweets