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 great 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

All our innovations are based on key insights into what consumers want and need. We aim to develop products that have purpose, so that consumers choose them 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 through innovation, 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. Many of the challenges of improving health and well-being, reducing environmental impact, and improving nutrition will be met through science and technology – and 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, Netherlands, India and China work on the science and technologies that can be applied to our product development process.

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 for achieving 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

Product 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, for example, or developing packaging that suits the product format, delights the consumer, 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 needs.

Launching new products into our markets

Our R&D Deploy 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 and meets the needs of our consumers.

Investment in a brighter future

More than 6,000 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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