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Unilever Taps Eco Inventors Via Online Platform – Again

Unilever has released a new set of challenges via its Open Innovation online platform. The company is asking inventors across the globe to help find technical solutions to three problems that it says will reduce the environmental impact of its more than 400 brands.

In March 2012, the company initially launched the online platform, seeking ways to double the size of its business while halving its environmental impact as set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

The first 10 open innovation “wants” were so successful — Unilever says it has received more than 1,000 submissions ranging from ideas that tackle the challenges to other technical solutions and product ideas — that the company has now posted three additional research projects for which its Research & Development department is seeking external know-how.

The three new wants are:

  • Technologies that break down fatty deposits left on clothes and hard surfaces in an efficient, odorless and environmentally friendly way. The solution could be incorporated as an ingredient in the detergent formulation or work as a pretreatment application.
  • Technologies that enable Unilever to reduce the sugar in its ready-to-drink teas by 30 percent, without affecting taste or mouth-feel.
  • Technologies that enable Unilever to produce a cost-effective, non-artificial red color for use in fruit and dairy products. The solution must maintain its color throughout its shelf life and be water soluble.

Unilever, which is listed on the 2012 Dow Jones Sustainability Index review, says it is in advanced discussions with several technology companies as a result of its first set of wants. These challenges ranged from creating lighter and more sustainable packaging, to laundry products that perform as well as traditional detergents but with less water and lower temperatures.

All ideas submitted on all 13 wants will be assessed by Yet2.com, an independent open innovation consultancy, before any reach Unilever’s Open Innovation team, the company says.

Since its Open Innovation team was founded in 2009, the number of research projects that involve external collaboration has increased from 25 percent to around 60 percent, according to Unilever.

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