Unilever Opens New Global Foods Innovation Center in the Netherlands

‘Hive’ on Wageningen campus will address major global food system challenges

Unilever Global Foods Innovation Center
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially opens ‘Hive’. Photo: Arie Kievit

His Majesty the King of the Netherlands on 6 December opened Unilever’s new global Foods Innovation Center on the campus of Wageningen University, the leading global agri-food research hub.

Unilever has invested €85 million in the new center, named ‘Hive’ for its location amidst leading academic research centers, start-ups and external partners. From Hive, Unilever will lead its global Foods innovation programs for brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s, The Vegetarian Butcher and Calvė. Areas of research will include: plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious foods.

Healthy and sustainable food ecosystem

Together with its partners, Unilever aims to transform the food industry into a healthy and sustainable system, driving innovations that are healthier for people and for the planet.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said: “We need a fundamental transformation of the food system if we are to feed more than 9 billion people sustainably and nutritiously. Malnutrition, obesity, climate change and food waste are issues that can only be addressed if we work in partnership to accelerate technology and innovation. Having a global research and development center in Wageningen will enable us to do exactly this.”

Triple helix approach to food innovation

Louise Fresco, chairman of the Executive Board of Wageningen University and Research (WUR), speaks of a paradigm shift that is needed to tackle the food challenges facing the world. According to her, Hive shows that the shift is in full swing. “The academic world is looking for an approach to the private sector and vice versa. Making an impact is paramount. Science uses public money, so it has to make a difference. It’s then up to companies to take action.”

The government is also part of the Dutch agri/food ecosystem, explained Maarten Camps, Secretary General of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, expressing pride that Unilever has established its R&D headquarters in the Netherlands.

“Research helps the Netherlands to make sustainable production and climate-neutral agriculture possible. Companies must then translate this into commercial innovations. The government helps with financing.”

Food Valley

The Wageningen area in the Netherlands is often called “Food Valley” – a nod to Silicon Valley – in recognition of the breakthroughs in agri-food tech being generated by start-ups, science institutes, NGOs and companies located in the area.

Award-winning fully circular building

Unilevers new Global Food Innovation Center is sustainably built

Unilever’s Hive has the highest certification for sustainable buildings: ‘BREEAM-NL Outstanding’. Completely energy neutral, the building is one of the most sustainable multi-functional buildings in the world. Large parts of the fully circular interior are accessible to the public. Earlier this year, the building won two prestigious design awards: the Global Design Award for Commercial Projects and the Global Public Award.

Source: Unilever

9 December 2019

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