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Unilever open innovation platform targets sustainable packaging

By Rory Harrington , 22-Mar-2012
Last updated on 22-Mar-2012 at 14:12 GMT2012-03-22T14:12:58Z

Unilever open innovation platform targets sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging has been highlighted as a key priority for Unilever as it launched an online innovation platform in a bid to uncover a raft of technical solutions to boost growth while cutting its carbon footprint.

The global consumer goods giant this week unveiled the open innovation portal in a bid to help it meet it strategic goal of doubling the size of the business while at the same time cutting its environmental impact.

Unilever said the platform is a gateway for potential collaborators to work with its R&D specialists to design innovation breakthroughs.

The multinational company outlined five major areas where it is seeking ground-breaking developments to hit its green targets.

Innovation but must meet core packaging aims

A Unilever statement said it was looking for “lighter and more sustainable packaging which will cut the weight, quantity and waste of our product packaging”.

The group declared it wanted to cut the weight of both primary and secondary packaging was seeking innovations based on plastic, glass, carton and board – or which research or projects that  replace any of these.

But the company stressed any proposals must meet the core aim of packaging - maintaining shelf life, mechanical performance, and protection of products.

“We are particularly interested in ideas which have strong sustainability credentials, and/or are safe and suitable for packaging food,” said Unilever.

Project criteria

The firm said packaging innovations should be multipurpose, lightweight and cost effective. They should also be novel and have IP protection.

Possible areas of interest include:

  • material solutions, including stronger polymers, additives, fillers, and fibres, or micro-bubbles 
  • multipurpose films
  • thin-walling or down-gauging
  • alternative closure mechanisms and resealable packaging 
  • novel design, including the use of ideas from fields like architecture or building construction
  • adoption of lower cost elements like fillers, improved fibres and so on
  • stronger materials

 Roger Leech, Unilever open innovation scouting director said: "Our global research and development teams consistently make innovation breakthroughs which keep Unilever at the forefront of product development and design.

"But we know that the world is full of brilliant people with brilliant ideas, and we are constantly looking for new ways to tap into this potential by working with partners who have a fresh, serious approach to developing exciting new technology.

"Smart collaboration with partners gives both parties the freedom to do business in new and invigorating ways - creating shared value along the way. It brings together the expertise and experience of our sustainable innovation capability with new thinking and creativity from partners, creating new business models in which ideas flourish.”

Click HERE to find the packaging section of the Open innovation Platform