Innovation in Unilever

Innovation is at the heart of Unilever’s ambition to grow sustainably. Science, Technology and Product Development are central to our plans to keep providing consumers with brands that improve their lives while having a positive impact on the environment and society.

Finding new ways to grow sustainably

Innovation will solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world

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Innovation will solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world.

All our innovations are based on key insights into consumers’ needs and wants. We aim to develop products that have purpose and that consumers choose again and again.

We work on a wide portfolio of projects, combining the search for breakthrough technologies with the constant drive to respond to competitors, move into new markets, and make our products more sustainable.

The products we develop, whether by ourselves or through our extensive partnerships with leading scientists, academic institutions, suppliers and specialist businesses, play an essential role in our ambition to make a positive impact on the world around us. Science and Technology will be key in improving health, wellbeing, nutrition and reducing environmental impact – we want to be at the forefront of this work.

Excellence from lab to shelf

Our innovation process goes through three main stages – research, development and product launch:

Research at our world-class facilities

Our six main R&D centres in the US, UK, the Netherlands, India and China.

Our research aims to bring together the best thinking and ideas from wherever they exist – not only do we pull together the best scientific expertise from within Unilever, but we also work closely with universities and specialist companies.

We have a strong record of breakthrough innovations – disruptive technologies that meet consumer needs better than any available alternatives and which can make a big impact.

Developing products that meet consumer needs

Global Design teams take our breakthroughs in Science and Technology one step further, turning unique insights into the products that consumers want and need. Development and testing of new technology takes place until it fits the product description – perfecting a formulation so that it looks great and is stable when stored, or developing packaging that suits the product format, and minimises environmental impact.

Next, we test the product thoroughly – first to ensure it is safe and will live up to our standards of performance, then with consumers to make sure it meets their expectations.

Launching new products into our markets

Our Cluster and Category Design teams draw on local knowledge – such as consumer preference, the regulatory framework, legal considerations and competitor products – as they ready a product for launch into a new market. They work closely with colleagues in Marketing and Supply Chain to make sure the new product can be manufactured efficiently.

Investment in a brighter future

More than 5,000 Unilever R&D professionals are building our brands through innovation. We invest around €1 billion in R&D each year, and we hold a portfolio of more than 20,000 patents and patent applications.

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