That’s according to the head of business engagement at the University of Manchester Kris Matykiewicz.
Matykiewicz told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the “multi-year agreement” would involve the university working with all six of Unilever’s research sites around the world, but predominantly with the two based in the UK.
The University of Manchester and Unilever aim to support each other in carrying out research across all four of its faculties in areas including sustainable consumption, process engineering, biophysics and systems biology.
“The partnership will involve knowledge exchange, the transfer of equipment from one to another, shared facilities and the sharing of people,” said Matykiewicz. “This is a tremendously exciting opportunity and we are only hindered by our lack of ambition as to where this stuff can lead.”
Matykiewicz added that although the university would continue to assist Unilever with the short-term problems it faces – such as “fixing a production process” or a “problem with ice cream”, it would focus on the wider issues facing the food and drink sector.
‘Long-term society goals’
“It is interesting for our academics to be involved in long-term society goals – not just helping to make improvements to shower gel – although we still will do that,” added Matykiewicz.
Matykiewicz claimed, through the partnership, the University of Manchester would help Unilever deliver on its Sustainable Living Plan to double the size of its organisation, while reducing its environmental impact.
He said Unilever would be able to benefit from the university’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, which undertakes a programme of research in environmental, sustainability and consumption issues.
Unilever aims to improve health and well-being, reduce environmental impact and source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020.
Professor Jim Crilly, senior vice president of Unilever’s Strategic Science Group, said this was the common link between the research, with innovation at the core of sustainable growth for Unilever.
‘Need to collaborate’
“At Unilever we believe that to continue to be successful we need to collaborate with the very best partners to access new ideas and technologies to create superior and sustainable products.
“The university, with its history of leading scientific achievements and its future ambitions, makes it an obvious choice for Unilever. The diversity of research fields that we will be exploring together is testimony to the range and depth of expertise to be found at the University and to our mutual interests in key areas of research.”
Matykiewicz said the partnership was “not exclusive” and that there was scope for the university to collaborate with other food and drink manufacturers on similar projects.
He added that there were a number of other food manufacturers, including a confectionery business, which the university already worked with – although he refused to name them for commercial reasons.