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December 15, 2009
Dec. 10 -- The computational science expertise of STFC Daresbury Laboratory is to play a key part in enabling global giant Unilever to research and develop innovative new products for their customers. STFC scientists will be using their world-class capabilities in modelling and simulation to develop new software tools that will speed up the development of new and more efficient products across Unilever's personal care range.
The research, with Unilever's R&D team at Port Sunlight will use the Laboratory's supercomputers to try to develop special software tools that can predict how the different ingredients will interact with each other. It is hoped that this work will make it possible for product modellers to run simulations in a more timely fashion and increase their understanding of how different ingredients can be mixed and processed efficiently. If successful, this breakthrough will enable Unilever to improve products for consumers using environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods.
The collaboration has been made possible by the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC), a national centre of expertise that aims to drive industrial growth for the UK chemistry-using industries through the coordination, development and exploitation of leading edge materials chemistry research.
Unilever spokesperson Dominic Tildesley said: "Product formulation is at the heart of our business and we are delighted to be working with one of the best computational modelling centres in the world to innovate more quickly and efficiently for our consumers."
Dr Richard Blake, director of computational science and engineering at STFC Daresbury Laboratory added: "We are delighted to be working with Unilever. STFC Daresbury Laboratory is well-known for its world-class computational science expertise in modelling and simulation. The personal care products we all use every day, such as shampoo and toothpaste, are actually very high-tech and are made up of a number of complex, structured materials. The chemical industry is one of the UK's largest manufacturing sectors and it is vital for companies like Unilever to invest in research and development to be able to innovate and grow. We hope that the results of this research will pave the way for further advances in materials chemistry which will benefit consumers, the environment and the wider economy."
John Conti Ramsden, director of the KCMC said: "This project is a great illustration of the growing importance of modelling and simulation to product and process innovation in formulated products -- and how the combination of modelling, with advances in experimentation, will enable new possibilities for product design."
1. The research work will start immediately and last for approximately one year.
2. The supercomputers that will be used for the work with Unilever include the Laboratory's IBM Blue Gene Systems, IBM Cell Blade, Sun and SGI systems.
3. Unilever currently spends over €1bn a year on research and development across its food, personal and home care products.
4. The safety of current and future products is the highest priority for Unilever and Daresbury Laboratory. There are European Union regulations and laws in individual countries which outline what materials and chemicals are approved for use in manufacturing. Unilever also apply their own high corporate standards that require approval from their own safety specialists before they place any product on the market. The research work at Daresbury Laboratory will work within these boundaries.
About Unilever Port Sunlight, UK
Unilever R&D Port Sunlight is the major R&D centre for the company's home and personal care brands. Over 700 scientists work to combine understanding in areas such a material, physical, biological, and process sciences with the best consumer insight to give innovative products for the world's supermarket shelves. The global brands our scientists contribute to include Dove, Sunsilk, Lynx / Axe, Signal, Cif, Persil / Omo and Domestos. Each year this work results in over 100 patent filings and approximately 140 peer-reviewed papers and conference presentations. We achieve much of our success by working across a network of Unilever R&D centres. Scientists at R&D Port Sunlight work daily with Unilever colleagues around the world.
About the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC)
The Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry is a virtual centre of expertise providing multi-disciplinary research and innovative knowledge transfer based on world class capabilities in applied materials chemistry. The center provides a single point of contact for companies of all sizes to access a substantial range of facilities and expertise in applied materials chemistry at four leading academic institutions at Bolton, Liverpool and Manchester Universities and the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Daresbury. It offers proactive help in the formulation and delivery of collaborative R&D projects; fast track project initiation with dedicated project scientists in our partner institutions; excellent project management and knowledge transfer expertise.
Initial funding of £8 million from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is matched by £7 million of academic commitment and resources by the academic partner institutions. This investment will provide the Northwest with an internationally renowned capability in materials chemistry and is set to leverage further industry and international grant income in excess of £15 million over the next five years.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS). It is a science-driven organisation, making it possible for a broad range of scientists to do the highest quality research tackling some of the most fundamental scientific questions.
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