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Unilever Launches Open Innovation Initiative

The consumer goods manufacturer Unilever unveiled today its open innovation program seeking ideas for new products and technologies from the public at large. The initiative is managed by the online intellectual property marketplace

Unilever’s program is structured around a set of issues or problems for which it seeks collaborators to find solutions. The opening list of issues that it calls “wants” includes:

  • Safe drinking water. Technologies through that could bring safe water to the world’s poorest people, for less than 1 cent per liter.
  • Fighting viruses. Reduce virus-borne diseases with a new active ingredient that inactivates viruses without relying on bleaches, strong acids, or alcohols.
  • Better packaging. Cut the weight, quantity and waste of our product packaging.
  • Sustainable washing. Products and technologies that allow consumers to get superior washing performance using lower temperatures and less water.
  • Less salt. Keep reducing the amount of sodium in food, while maintaining an appealing taste.
  • A different kind of toothpaste. New sensations, flavors, and ingredients to markedly change the feeling people have when they clean their teeth.
  • Natural food preservation. Develop new natural methods for preserving food and preventing the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Renewable energy storage. Find better ways to store the energy harnessed from renewable sources like the sun or wind.
  • Sustainable showering. Give consumers a good shower or bath, but at lower temperatures, and with less water.

Collaborators can submit their ideas on the Unilever Web site. Unilever says its partner will review submissions for the extent of fit to Unilever’s needs and will follow-up with the submitter as needed. The program’s FAQs note that submitters should send in only non-confidential information, but non-disclosure agreements may be negotiated if Unilever wants to pursue the ideas.

The FAQs also suggest that submitters not disclose any information that puts later patent rights at risk, and urges submitters in this situation to first consult an intellectual property lawyer.

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Photo: Sherman Geronimo-Tan/Flickr

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