Unilever Research Prizes 2020 event takes place

Top science students in the Netherlands recognised

Group photo Unilever Research Prizes 2020

The latest line up of 13 talented young scientists to receive the Unilever Research Prize were awarded on Thursday November 26th 2020. This year marked the 64th edition of the annual event, which aims to acknowledge our important relationship with the Dutch academic world. Each year, we ask universities in The Netherlands to nominate their best Master’s students - those who have done exceptional work on topics that are relevant to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals.

2020 marked the 64th year of the annual event, which stretches all the way back to 1956. It was also the first time it took place virtually, due to Covid restrictions. Manfred Aben, VP Science & Technology Foods & Refreshment and Site Leader for the Hive hosted the online event, which was a great success.

The full agenda included a virtual introduction by Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer, Richard Slater. Two speakers then followed: Andre Pots, Product & Process Science Foods Director R&D at Unilever; and Sanne Stroosnijder, Program Manager Food Loss & Waste Prevention at Wageningen University. Both talked about the imperatives around food systems transformation, emphasizing the importance of collaboration. A short Q&A session followed.

Each of the 13 students were then presented with their award. Manfred Aben teamed up with Carla Hilhorst, EVP R&D Foods and Refreshment at Unilever, to present the accolades and say a few words about the research completed by each individual student. Yet again, the standard of work was incredibly impressive. “I am pleased to see that the 2020 nominees do not only show outstanding talent; many of them are already part of larger, multidisciplinary efforts to tackle the global challenges we face today,” said Manfred.

All of the students graduated with high honours or distinctions. The students’ research focused on a wide range of topics, including ways to advance the much needed transition to renewable energy, feeding the growing world population more sustainably via advancements in aquaculture, the sustainable degradation of plastic, advancing treatment for a specific type of ovarian cancer and developing a new finger prick device to take routine blood samples at home, allowing patients to continue with their healthcare remotely. One young scientist even proved that incorporating play into work and sports is an effective way to relieve stress.

Some of the students took inspiration from our current climate, focusing on Covid-related research. This included theses on whether or not technology can act as a proper substitute for face-to-face interactions during the pandemic; while another explored the role of self-conscious emotions (such as guilt, shame and pride) to predict who will engage in social distancing and social initiatives.

Each student received a cheque for €2,500 and a special glass artwork called ‘The Helping Hands’, designed by Dutch artist Frans Steginga, which symbolises the collaboration that is needed between industry and science to face global challenges together.

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