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Open Innovation

We have a vision of a better future for our world and our business and we want partners to share it. If you have a new design or technology that could help us grow our business and solve the challenges we’ve set, we’d like to work with you through Open Innovation.

Bringing the best solutions to billions of consumers

Information on submitting a technical solution

FAQs: get information on how to submit your technical solution.

Our world-class research and development facilities are making breakthroughs that keep Unilever at the forefront of product development. We are constantly looking for new ways to work with potential partners through Open Innovation.

Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) is central to our business model. It sets out how we are growing our business, whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact. Innovation plays a vital part in this – so we want good technological ideas to become reality quickly for whoever thought of them first. If you are working on a project that could match our ambitions, why not consider a partnership with us - so that we can build success together?

How you can work with us

We will consider partnerships with established suppliers, start-ups, academics, designers, individual inventors – anyone with a practical innovation that can help us meet our challenges.

Latest challenges and wants

Ingredient or technology for prevention of oil oxidation

Overview

Oil oxidation is a series of chemical reactions that degrades the quality of oil, making it undesirable for consumption. It occurs in stages and produces many oxidation products that together contribute to rancidity and adverse characteristics. Rate of oxidation is affected by a number of factors - temperature, light, oxygen availability, presence of moisture and metals, and type of oil.

We are seeking solutions that can prevent oil oxidation of emulsions without impacting the flavour, appearance and product quality of the emulsion. Potential approaches could be in the form of a novel ingredient, processing techniques, packaging or technology. For example, encapsulation of oil could protect it from oxidising prior to its specific use, or a specific processing technique could lessen exposure to oxidising factors (light, temperature, moisture).

Main requirements

  • Prevention or delay of oil oxidation 
  • Effective at acidic pH 
  • Works under chilled and ambient temperatures 
  • No adverse sensory effects on the emulsion

Desired outcome

The desired outcome is a technology, process, or ingredient that can prevent or delay oxidation of emulsions without negatively impacting the sensory properties of the emulsion (taste, smell, appearance, consistency). Current commercial natural anti-oxidants are not of interest.

Oxidation challenge - send an application

Intelligent packaging

Overview

We are seeking technologies that enhance the value and perceived value of products when incorporated onto primary packaging. We are seeking improvements in the connection between consumer and product (how-to-guides, recipes, reviews, gamification), potential health benefits (freshness indicator, cooking aid), or in the safety of the product (authentication, tamper evidence, anti-theft).

Main requirements

  • Technology should have a direct and perceivable benefit to the consumer when using the intelligent packaging. 
  • Improvements in connectivity need to be relevant to the product and its target audience. 
  • Safety and protection features should present in no compromise in the quality of the packaging and visibility or usability of the contents.

Desired outcome

Incorporation of a new technology into packaging to enhance value, user experience, consumer trust in products and consideration to environment (packaging waste stream and recyclability).

Intelligent packaging challenge - send an application

More for less

Overview

We are seeking new technologies and materials that can be incorporated into products to deliver the same or better functionality while using radically less material. These improvements in functionality could provide containers with a new purpose, a simplified purpose or the ability to refill contents.

Main requirements

  • Reduced amount of material used in packaging and the production of packaging through innovative design or material choices. 
  • Any replacement materials must not significantly increase the cost of production. 
  • Decrease in thickness and/or weight of packaging walls while maintaining shape, barrier properties and rigidity and consumer perception.

Desired outcome

Improvement in functionality of packaging while reducing the amount of material either in the final package, or reducing the amount of material used in the production stage.

More for less challenge - send an application

Superior functionality

Overview

We are seeking new technologies that can significantly improve the interactions that occur between consumers and packaging, primarily in the way packaging attracts, protects, and brings convenience. Improvements in how a product is sensed by consumers (audiovisual, tactile), how it protects our products, as well as improvements in practical functionality, will be considered.

Main requirements

  • Improved attraction to consumers through novel materials, shapes and decorations. 
  • Improved performance of the product and its container. Examples include seals, easy open and dispensing technology and protection against damaging conditions (heat, light etc)

Desired outcome

Inclusion of new technology into packaging that improves function while retaining consumer attraction, low cost and visibility.

Superior functionality challenge - send an application

New and novel freezing and cooling technologies

Overview

Many current freezing and cooling techs are reliant on external power sources - in areas where power supply is unreliable or access to power is limited, there can be detrimental effects on chilled and frozen products. Therefore, we are seeking new innovations in chilling and freezing technologies that can be used to help reduce and/or maintain low temperature.

The solution could be a completely novel cooling technology, a retrofit to existing fridges or freezers, or a step-change in refrigeration design. Solutions could be from a number of industries or technology areas, such as novel insulation material, phase change materials, evaporative cooling refrigerators, or off-grid power solutions.

Key features

  • Reduces or maintains freezing temperatures
  • Ideally be non-powered or self-powered

Desired outcome

Desired outcome would be a cost-effective, self-powered innovation that can be used in an enclosed space to maintain temperatures lower than the ambient surrounding temperature.

Freezing and cooling challenge - send an application

Process for superficial surface modification of non-uniform flat shapes

Overview

We are seeking industrial-scale processes for surface modification or treatment of fibrous material in the form of indentations, intrusions, perforations, scoring, bruising, or microporations. Potential solutions of interest include but are not limited to - use of lasers, sand blasting, heat shock, rolling, and spiking. Industries that may have relevant solutions include food, textiles, packaging, wound care, and tobacco processing.

Key features

  • Surface modification of heterogeneous flat shapes 
  • Continuous process 
  • Must not cause structural damage 
  • Potential for scalability to an industrial level 
  • Ability to modify the surface without leaving residue 
  • Solution must be food grade approach

Desired outcome

Desired outcome would be a scalable, cost-effective approach that can create superficial modifications to the surface of multiple flat shapes.

Surface modification challenge - send an application

Process for shape transformation of tea leaves

Overview

Current premium tea processing and shaping methods are predominantly manual and therefore labour intensive and high cost. Unilever is looking for processes for creating varied shapes of tea leaves, e.g. needles, circles, balls, spirals. Solutions must be industrial in scale or have the potential for industrial scaling, and could come from a number of industries (food, textiles, packaging, tobacco processing etc.) Example actions to achieve shape modification include tumbling, pressing, rolling, compacting, and drying.

Key features

  • Potential for scalability to an industrial level 
  • Shape modification can be done without leaving residue or excess structural damage 
  • Simple, cost-effective uniform shaping 
  • No loss in mass

Desired outcome

We are seeking processes capable of scaling to an industrial level to enable controlled transformation of multiple tea leaves into predefined shapes.

Tea leaves challenge - send an application

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