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Open Innovation

We have a vision of a better future for our world, 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 have set, we would like to work with you through Open Innovation.

Bringing the best solutions to billions of consumers

Information on submitting a technical solution

Our world-class research and development (R&D) 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.

Innovation plays a vital role in sustainable growth – 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.

Submit a technical solution via our Open Innovation portal

Submissions portal

Latest challenges and wants

Naturals for Microbiome control

Identification of external suppliers with libraries of functional natural and botanical derived compounds / extracts / products available for testing.

Background: An opportunity has been identified across BPC categories where consumers have an increasing preference for naturally derived formulations including those from botanical sources. It is desired to deliver functionality (antimicrobial, prebiotic, anti inflammatory etc) using natural or botanical derived products / extracts / actives. Currently there are limited libraries of functional natural compounds with the desired activity available at a cost-effective price and at relevant levels of production.

The goal of this project is to identify 3rd party suppliers who can provide materials for internal screening against relevant target endpoints. Materials with multiple functional properties are highly desired. Available materials will undergo appropriate screening at Unilever facilities against multiple end points and selected leads will be further investigated for safety and formulation compatibility in advance of potential progression to relevant clinical studies.

Materials may be used across personal care / cosmetics areas including skin care, scalp care, face care and oral care (some additional specific requirements for oral care actives).

Description:

  • Natural materials or nature identical (primarily but not limited to botanical derived actives)
  • Known activity for endpoints not limited to antimicrobial, anti inflammatory, anti oxidant, anti-biofilm.
  • Preference for non colored materials however not essential.
  • Materials available in large volume for potential market launch cosmetic grade and food grade materials desired – compliance with regulatory and safety requirements for Oral Care desired.
  • Materials available in high concentration (i.e. 10% upwards) to facilitate tests at >5% inclusion level
  • A sample of the solvent and preservative system to use as a control in assessment.
  • Non GMO.
  • Preferred non-carcinogenic (Oral Care specific requirement).
  • Formulation compatibility.
  • Environmental toxicity package.
  • Compositional analysis of extracts including identification of active material.
  • Safety Package.

Desired Outcome (include preferred collaboration types here) :

  • Supply of materials in relevant quantities and format for testing at Unilever.
  • Following in vitro testing proceed to clinical studies where appropriate.
  • Exclusive supply agreement for materials between 3rd party supplier and Unilever.

What we aren’t interested in:

  • Known toxic materials, sensitiser, high heavy metals, carcinogen or other special handling or consumer safety requirement
  • Known drugs or medicines
  • Known regulatory prohibited materials
  • Materials with significant colour or odour or taste
  • Materials that will require cold shipping and selling when in a finished product
  • Materials with likely or known allergenicity risk
  • Technology knowingly owned by or licensed to 3rd party competitors of Unilever
  • Material / Formulation testing on animals post 2010
  • Drug registered materials
  • Materials with a solvent/carrier/diluent or preservation system that cannot be used in oral care (Oral Care specific requirement)

Naturals for Microbiome challenge - send an application

Prebiotics for Microbiome control

Identification of external suppliers with libraries of prebiotic ingredients available for testing.

Background: An opportunity has been identified across BPC categories where consumers have an increasing preference for prebiotic formulations including prebiotics from botanical sources. It is desired to deliver functionality (microbial control) using prebiotic materials. Currently there are limited libraries of prebiotic compounds with the desired activity available at a cost-effective price and at relevant levels of production.

The goal of this project is to identify 3rd party suppliers who can provide materials for internal screening against relevant target endpoints. Available materials will undergo appropriate screening at Unilever facilities against multiple end points and selected leads will be further investigated for safety and formulation compatibility in advance of potential progression to clinical studies.

Materials may be used across personal care / cosmetics areas including skin care, scalp care, face care and oral care (some additional specific requirements for oral care actives).

Description:

  • Prebiotic materials (materials intended for use as a growth or metabolic substrate by relevant micro organisms)
  • Preference for non colored materials however not essential.
  • Materials available in large volume for potential market launch cosmetic grade and food grade materials desired. Specific oral care grade compliance required for use by Oral Care category.
  • Non GMO.
  • Specific to oral application the material should not lead to microbial fermentation/acid production (Oral Care specific requirement).
  • Formulation compatibility.
  • Compositional analysis of extracts including identification of active material.
  • Safety Package.

Desired Outcome (include preferred collaboration types here) :

  • Supply of materials in relevant quantities and format for testing at Unilever.
  • Following in vitro testing proceed to clinical studies where appropriate.
  • Exclusive supply agreement for materials between 3rd party supplier and Unilever.

What we aren’t interested in:

  • Known toxic materials, sensitizer, high heavy metals, carcinogen or other special handling or consumer safety requirement
  • Known drugs or medicines
  • Known regulatory prohibited materials
  • Materials with significant colour or odour or taste
  • Materials that will require cold shipping and selling when in a finished product
  • Materials with likely or known allergenicity risk
  • Technology knowingly owned by or licensed to 3rd party competitors of Unilever
  • Material / Formulation testing on animals post 2010
  • Drug registered materials
  • Materials with a solvent/carrier/diluent or preservation system that cannot be used in oral care (Oral Care specific requirement)

Prebiotics for Microbiome challenge - send an application

New Routes to Improved Quality Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic

Background:

We are seeking new technologies that can significantly improve the quality of post-consumer recycled plastic that comes from mechanical recycling processes. The aim is to overcome the current restrictions in use of PCR, to enable more extensive use of these materials, across a broader portfolio of packaging formats.

Description:

Main Requirements

  • Improved material purity (eg no PP in an HDPE stream)
  • Improved odour control
  • Improved colour and consistency
  • Improved functional properties in use
  • Improved processing during conversion

Desired Outcome

Inclusion of post-consumer recycled plastic at high levels into plastic packaging of all types (eg bottles, caps, tubs, lids, pouches, sachets etc) whilst ensuring a good quality experience for consumers, with no compromise.

We are open to the following types of engagement: sponsored research for development and proof of concept testing, consultation, licensing existing technology for Unilever to apply, purchase commercial ready solution, open to any, etc..

New Routes to Improved Quality Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic challenge - send an application

Carbon Neutral or Regenerative Packaging

Background:

We are seeking new materials and technologies, that can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our current packaging portfolio, whilst still providing the key properties required to meet consumer needs. The proposals should also ensure they have the ability to be fully circular by design, either as part of a recyclable/recycled material loop, or through a biological loop using composting.

Description:

Main Requirements

  • Examples of the types of technology areas that will be considered are:
  • Carbon capture technologies
  • Bioplastics from agricultural waste/regenerative agriculture
  • Alternative materials from land/water efficient carbon sinks (seaweed etc)
  • Materials with significantly lower GHG requirements for manufacture or conversion

Desired Outcome:

New packaging solutions which can reduce the carbon footprint of our portfolio, with an ambition for the packaging solution to be carbon neutral or regenerative by design.

We are open to the following types of engagement: sponsored research for development and proof of concept testing, consultation, licensing existing technology for Unilever to apply, purchase commercial ready solution, open to any, etc..

Carbon Neutral or Regenerative Packaging challenge - send an application

Detergent Powder with no Water Insolubles

Overview

We are seeking solutions to address one of the key issues faced by consumers using detergent powder:

  • presence of insoluble residues which connote poor value and product quality.

To achieve this, we are looking at alternatives to current insoluble coating/layering aids.

Main Requirements

  • The coating/layering material should have high resistance to gain moisture from humid environment but should ideally be also be water soluble during use by consumer.
  • Cost effective, or comparable to current coating/layering technologies
  • Stable, compatible in detergent formulations
  • Ideally a formulation solution but open to processing intervention with minimal capital expenditure

Desired Outcome

  • Powder with no insolubles, good dissolution profile, good shelf life and no caking issues

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients with Safety concerns
  • Changes to powder sensories (e.g. fragrance, dissolution, foam)

Detergent Powder with no Water Insolubles challenge: send an application

Natural Fabric Whitening Agents

Overview

In line with our cleaner choices agenda, We are seeking new technologies/materials that can be used to deliver better/comparable whiteness benefits on fabrics compared to commonly used fluorescers like DASCC*. New technologies/materials should be biodegradable and manufactured using green raw materials.

Main Requirements

  • Weight and cost efficient
  • Comparable/better performance to fluorescers
  • It should not have any gross negative on consumer fabrics (like spotting & staining)
  • Compatibility /Stability in powder detergent formulation

Desired Outcome

Material with Green chemistry and biodegradable with single wash whiteness boost as current fluorescers (DASCC)

What we are not interested in

  • Technologies that have Safety concerns
  • Non-biodegradable materials
  • Materials that are not compatible with detergent powders

* DASCC: Diamino stilbene cyanuric chloride

Natural Fabric Whitening Agents challenge: send an application

Natural Materials for Stain Removal and Hygiene

Overview

In line with our cleaner choices agenda We are seeking natural/green technologies/materials that can be used to deliver dual benefits of sodium percarbonate:

A: stain removal on bleachable stains

B: hygiene

The technology can be either from renewable sources or circular economy.

Main Requirements

  • Comparable/better performance on stain removal and hygiene to sodium percarbonate
  • Should be weight and cost efficient
  • Compatible with powder detergent

Desired Outcome

Performance established through standard lab tests (hygiene and cleaning) and consumer tests with no gross negatives

What we are not interested in

  • Materials which have Safety* concerns
  • Materials which are not biodegradable

* - E.g. non-carcinogenic, no ecotox issues, etc

Natural Materials for Stain Removal and Hygiene challenge: send an application

Stable salt hydrates

Overview

Detergent powders use soluble salts heavily as part of their composition. There is a need to reduce chemicals used in the composition. This can be potentially achieved by including higher levels of water without impacting physical properties of detergent powder.

Main Requirements

  • Water soluble salt hydrates that have significant amount of water associated with them (at least 50% by weight)
  • Stability: raw material, in detergent powder and under high temperature and humidity
  • Commercially viable process to make salt hydrates with good scalability (e.g. with right layering aids and processing steps)
  • Cost of salt hydrate should be similar to current salts used in detergent powders

Desired Outcome

  • Detergent powders with significantly high level of water without any issues in processing and shelf life
  • Feasibility of inclusion across different powder processing routes

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients and impurities in materials with Safety concerns
  • Already known gelling polymers and insoluble materials

Stable salt hydrates challenge: send an application

Tough Stain Removal

Overview

We are seeking new technologies that are aligned to our cleaner choices agenda to meet consumer need of removal of tough stains such as collar & cuff soil and cooking oil stains with reduced effort.

Main Requirements

  • Weight and Cost efficient technologies that are compatible in powder detergent formulations
  • Biodegradable materials

Desired Outcome

  • Consumer perceivable differences in stain removal (as demonstrated in a consumer test)

What we are not interested in

  • Known technologies (known surfactant mixtures, enzymes, polymers, etc)
  • Technologies that have safety concerns
  • Not compatible with detergent formulations

Tough Stain Removal challenge: send an application

Natural Antioxidant(s)

Natural antioxidant(s) for improving storage stability of fragrances and actives prone to oxidation

Background:

Synthetic antioxidants such as Tinogard TT (Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butly hydroxyhydrocinnamate) and Tinogard DA (didodecyl 3,3'-thiodipropionate) have been used as highly effective stabilizers to prevent degradation of actives sensitive to oxidation. They can mitigate negative impacts of oxidatively unstable actives on stability of final formulations. However, due to their synthetic nature, they are not suitable for use in natural Skin Care formulations. Some existing natural antioxidants such as tocopherol and rosemary extract come with strong odor or color profile, which introduced undesirable sensory attributes in final formulations. There is a need for natural alternative to TInogard TT and Tinogard DA antioxidants.

Description:

Natural antioxidant(s) for improving storage stability of fragrances and actives prone to oxidation. Natural antioxidant must be parity or superior in performance to Tinogard TT and Tinogard DA.

Desired Outcome (include preferred collaboration types here) :

Proof of principle studies versus Tinogard TT and Tinogard DA:

  • GC headspace data after storage for benchmark actives: sunflower seed oil & CLA
  • Color and chemical stability data after storage
  • Rancimat test

What we aren’t interested in:

  • Antioxidants with tox issue, registration issue, colour issue or odour issue
  • Antioxidants that degrade during storage stability
  • Antioxidants that act as potent antioxidants in skin but have poor efficacy in preventing actives from oxidation during formulation storage stability

Natural Antioxidants challenge - send an application

Novel measurements of skin physiology

Finding new ways to demonstrate product efficacy and discriminate between products

Background:

  • The ability to accurately and reproducibly measure changes in physiological parameters of the skin is key to being able to demonstrate product benefits.
  • Traditional measurement capabilities whilst robust and well-validated often do not allow for the discrimination of product effects.
  • Non-invasive measurements allow greater chances of inclusion in a clinical setting
  • Measurement of skin ageing and of disrupted epidermal skin health (e.g. dryness, sensitivity etc) are of particular interest.

Description :

  • The ability to make more detailed and discriminatory measurements – or more discriminatory analysis from existing measurements – would provide increased scope for testing in open settings
  • The non-invasive collection and analysis of biomarkers would be considered
  • Relevant measurements which can be related to parameters of skin physiology and product usage are sought.

Desired Outcome (include preferred collaboration types here) :

  • Provision of novel measurement capabilities which allow the demonstration of product efficacy and product discrimination.
  • Improved analytical methods, that can demonstrate product benefit, using data generated with current instruments (Visia, primos, cutometer, TWEL etc..) deployed in skin clinical studies.
  • Ideally non-invasive measurements
  • Transferrable capabilities which could be implemented in clinical settings i.e. does not rely on panellists attending a dedicated facility
  • Meaningful measurements/analysis which can be related to skin physiology and benefit areas.

What we aren’t interested in :

  • Invasive techniques
  • Non-discriminating measurements
  • Non-transferrable measurements which cannot be deployed at non-core facilities.
  • Measurements we already use
  • Measurements which cannot be related to skin physiology

Skin physiology challenge - send an application

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