Fossil fuel sources currently provide the basis for the majority of chemicals used by industry yet decreasing supplies and environmental considerations mean there is a growing requirement for renewable and sustainable sources for raw materials.
As such, the Anglo-Dutch company has entered into a three year project with the education institute to develop renewable chemicals from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes.
The search for the high-performance sustainable materials will be located at the University of Liverpool, with rapid high-throughput research methods to be used to advance the development of the renewable chemicals.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership agreement which is part-funded by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Paul Jenkins, Unilever Research Director said developing sustainably sourced and future-proof materials was in-line with targets under the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
"The research could eventually result in a range of new alternatives for core ingredients like surfactants and polymers which go into many of our home and personal care products,” he said.
"It is the latest example of Unilever partnering with a leading academic institution to develop expertise to come up with practical solutions to long-term challenges. It also has potential to enable us to continue to enhance our products while also making them kinder on the environment.”
Unilever and the University of Liverpool will jointly operate the new unit, which allied to the existing strategic partnership between the two organisations, will help provide a platform to create a world-class scientific network within the North West.
Dr Jose A. Lopez-Sanchez, a lecturer in Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis at the University of Liverpool who is leading the project says that it brings together academia and industry experts from the fields of materials chemistry, bio refineries, catalysis and chemical synthesis to address some of the challenges of converting biomass materials into new high-value chemical products.