Unilever invites ideas to reduce water use in laundry products

Unilever is in advanced discussions with several technology companies to develop laundry products that can deliver high performance using less water in lower temperatures.

The talks, which have resulted from the company’s new open innovation portal launched in March, have been so successful that Unilever has released a further set of challenges to the world’s R&D community.

One of these involves developing a commercially viable technology that can break down fatty deposits left on clothes and hard surfaces in an efficient, odourless and environmentally friendly way.

The solution could be incorporated as an ingredient in the detergent formulation or work as a pre-treatment application.

Unilever is open to ideas, which can be submitted via its online platform, and is also seeking solutions that can reduce sugar levels in ready-to-drink teas by 30%, without impacting on taste or mouthfeel.

The innovation challenge is part of a wider strategy by the brand to help it deliver on an ambitious sustainable growth agenda by doubling the size of its business while reducing environmental impact.

The company hopes the new challenges will receive a similar response to when it announced its first ten open innovation ‘wants’ earlier this year.

The platform has now received more than 1,000 submissions, ranging from ideas which tackle the challenges set by Unilever, to other technical solutions and new product ideas.

Unilever’s vice president of open innovation Jon Hague said he had been hugely impressed by the quality, ingenuity and inventiveness of submissions received since the launch of the online portal.

“We have a long track-record of working with external partners to develop new technologies, so we were already very aware of the strength and depth of the innovation talent which exists outside of Unilever.

“However this was the first time we have shared our research projects in such an open forum and it’s very exciting to have tapped into a new community of inventors who share our passion for sustainable innovation.”

All ideas submitted are assessed by an independent open innovation consultancy before they reach Unilever’s open innovation team.

Since team was founded in 2009, the number of research projects which involve external collaboration has increased from 25% to around 60%.

Maxine Perella

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