Unilever Partners with University of Liverpool to develop next generation materials for consumer products

16th April 2021

Global consumer goods giant, Unilever, has partnered with University of Liverpool and University of Oxford on  a new £8.8m collaboration to transform the global chemical supply chain and help the UK achieve its Net Zero target.

The University of Liverpool’s red brick campus

The EPSRC Prosperity Partnership aims to reduce the carbon footprint of consumer products such as shampoo and laundry detergent through improved chemical production.

The project will develop new scientific platforms that will provide sustainable routes to the chemicals used in consumer products from waste, such as carbon dioxide, and other renewable feedstocks.

Prosperity Partnerships are business-led research partnerships between leading UK based businesses and their long-term strategic university partners.

The University of Liverpool has a long standing strategic relationship with Unilever, which has a key R&D facility working on oral care, deodorant and household care products at its Port Sunlight plant in Wirral, encompassing research and development, technology innovation and spin out activities.

The university’s Materials Innovation Factory was established with Unilever.

Scientists from both organisations collaborate in this state-of-the-art £81m facility, reflecting their shared vision of the role of automated, data-driven routes for materials discovery.

These new routes will deliver the next-generation catalysts and polymers required for the new Net Zero chemistry of consumer products.

Royal Society Research Professor, Matthew Rosseinsky, from the University of Liverpool, is the principal investigator of the project.

Prof Rosseinsky said: “We are excited to work with Unilever and the University of Oxford on this ambitious research programme that will open new paths to the sustainable catalysts and processes needed to access the renewable and biodegradable materials for the consumer products of the future.

“This project reflects our shared commitment to achieve Net-Zero through co-creation of new chemical science.”

Richard Slater, chief R&D Officer at Unilever, said: “To achieve the UK’s Net Zero goal by 2050 we need a transformation of the global chemical supply chain.

“This partnership is an important milestone towards this, driving forward important research on new renewable and biodegradable materials for everyday products, such as laundry detergents. We’re delighted to bring together our world leading scientists alongside those from the University of Liverpool, the University of Oxford, and our other partners, to tackle this issue.”

Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “By reducing the carbon footprint of everyday household products such as shampoo, this pioneering collaboration between Unilever and the University of Liverpool will make a real impact on eliminating our contribution to climate change and helping the UK achieve its Net Zero ambitions. This is part of our efforts to put the funding and structures in place to ensure we build back better through innovation, drive local economic growth and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.”

This Prosperity Partnership will also help achieve N8 Net Zero North (NZN), an initiative which connects the Northern Powerhouse’s science and research capabilities, skills providers and businesses to forge a green recovery from COVID-19 while simultaneously putting the UK at the forefront of the global drive for Net Zero carbon.

Prof Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Impact at the University of Liverpool, said: “This excellent collaboration with Unilever takes our partnership to a new level by accelerating the development of new materials to achieve clean growth. These collaborative university industry partnerships maximise the contribution that our scientists make to develop the new technologies, processes and skills that are needed to achieve the UK’s and the North of England’s transition to a Net Zero economy.”

The EPSRC Prosperity Partnership is one of nine supported by an overall investment of £75m from business, academia and UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Read more about Liverpool City Region’s advanced manufacturing sector HERE.