Colworth has a strong track record of building and contributing to a number of brands including Lipton, PG Tips, Flora/Becel, Ragu, Magnum, Cornetto, Ponds and Dove.
Also based at Colworth is Unilever’s global Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre whose scientists underpin consumer safety, environmental safety, occupational safety and sustainability initiatives worldwide. Colworth is one of Unilever’s two main R&D centres in the UK.
Current research themes include health/wellness, nutrition, biosciences, processing, consumer psychology and measurement science. Colworth is home to Global Development Centres for Ice Cream and Beverages. The site also boasts one of the world’s largest ice cream pilot plants and most northerly tea plantations.
Unilever R&D Colworth is the largest occupier of the Colworth Science Park which is run as a joint venture between Unilever and property specialists Goodman. This makes the Colworth lab unique within Unilever in that it is part of an innovation eco-system where Unilever R&D, entrepreneurs and academics (the site is near Oxford and Cambridge universities) can network and collaborate. On the estate is Unilever’s 400-hectare commercially-run farm, where the team explores how farming impacts biodiversity through a range of activities that feed into the company’s sustainable agriculture initiative.
Unilever’s Patent Group is also at Colworth. The Group has global responsibility for legal protection of the company’s technical innovation, and outputs on average 50 patents and 100 publications each year.
Over 600 employees from 30 nationalities between them have almost 140 PhDs. They bring together diverse scientific and technical expertise including plant science, cell and molecular biology, health psychology, social science, engineering, physical sciences, and environmental and human health sciences. Specialists in information and technology management ensure that R&D scientists worldwide can access the information they need to carry out their work efficiently.
Colworth has been at the forefront of industrial research for 60 years, and provided much of the early innovation to support Unilever’s expanding interests in new businesses such as agribusiness and frozen foods in the 1960s and 70s. It was responsible for breakthrough technologies including the home pregnancy test kit, pyramid tea bags, and a range of healthier great tasting and exciting ice creams as well as more recently the HeartAge tool that support’s lifestyle behaviour change.
The centre sponsors the Colworth Medal, one of the most prestigious annual awards conferred by the UK’s Biochemical Society. First presented in 1963, it recognises outstanding research by a young biochemist of any nationality who has carried out the majority of his or her work in the UK.