'Transforming food systems together': Unilever eyes increased impact of R&D through collaboration

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Unilever Wageningen University & Research Wageningen Food Valley Innovation R&I

Unilever will open its new research facility in the middle of next year ©Unilever
Unilever will open its new research facility in the middle of next year ©Unilever
Unilever will open a new innovation centre at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands to support collaboration throughout the food chain and “increase the impact” of its research and development expertise.

The Global Foods Innovation Centre will focus on healthy and sustainable food innovations. The building, designed by Paul de Ruiter Architects, is centrally located on the Wageningen Campus to ensure “optimal interaction and knowledge exchange​” between Unilever, researchers at Wageningen and start-ups and other companies present on campus.

"The Global Foods Innovation Center is explicitly focused, as part of the Agri Food eco-system in Wageningen, to increase the impact of our own R&D expertise by working closely with a large variety of external partners: from large multinationals to SMEs, start-ups and NGOs,”​ Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark a milestone in construction – with the build now reaching its highest point – Polman stressed the importance of taking a collaborative approach to address the challenges facing the food sector, such as climate change and health.

“Only together can we realize the real changes on a large scale that are needed to transform the global food system,”​ he stressed. “This is really tangible, trying to change the face of the Netherlands and more importantly trying to change the face of food and food security in this world."

The Unilever Global Foods Innovation Centre will strengthen the innovation ecosystem already established in Wageningen as part of the Food Valley, Geert van Rumund, Mayor of Wageningen, said.

"The sustainable Foods Innovation Centre… fits seamlessly with Wageningen's ambition to form the knowledge heart of the Netherlands within the Food Valley Region in the area of (Agro) Food and Life Sciences. Knowledge and innovation networks, which are already very effective here, will receive a tremendous boost and will develop globally in a leading position,”​ he suggested.

David Blanchard, chief R&D officer at Unilever added that the facility - and the research and innovation it will provide Unilever access to - will augment the group's R&D activities. “We expect to see some ground breaking innovations coming through from the research pipeline to then develop further breakthrough innovations for Unilever.”

‘Sustainable, inspiring and innovative’

The building aims to offer a “sustainable, inspiring and innovative​” 18,000 m2 space consisting of a pilot plant, a food and customer experience centre and two floors with offices and laboratories. In the pilot plant, a mini-factory, new products can be trialled and manufactured in limited volumes.

Earlier this week the design phase was awarded the maximum sustainability certification, the BREEAM-NL Outstanding certificate, by the Dutch Green Building Council.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2019 and the facility is due to open its doors in mid-2019.

Unilever Global Food Innovation Centre
Unilever's new innovation centre will facilitate collaboration ©Unilever

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