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Partnership puts computational science at the heart of Unilevers R&D


The Rt.Hon George Osborne MP
Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC, and Jim Crilly, Senior Vice President, Strategic Science Group at Unilever

 The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre has become Unilever’s R&D global partner for high performance computing. The agreement will mean quicker product design processes and lead times for Unilever’s innovative new consumer products and provides it with access to the most powerful supercomputer in the UK.

 Under the agreement, scientists at STFC’s Hartree Centre will be using their world leading capabilities in software development and computer simulation to create software tools that could shave months off the development of breakthrough, innovative products across many of Unilever's product ranges.

These software tools will enable Unilever’s product researchers to run exceptionally fast simulations that will predict how different ingredients in products will interact with each other, and how they can be mixed and processed efficiently, enabling Unilever to develop and improve consumer products using environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods.

Welcoming the announcement, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "This agreement is a ringing endorsement of the world-leading facilities and expertise at STFC’s Hartree Centre, which alongside industrial and academic partners has recently benefitted from £30 million of new government investment. It shows the huge potential of high performance computing to revolutionise the product design process, driving growth and fostering innovation between the research base and industry."

The agreement was signed by Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC, and Jim Crilly, Senior Vice President, Strategic Science Group at Unilever.

On signing, Jim Crilly said: "Unilever’s R&D Strategy commits us to a digitally enabled future of e-Science and big data. Our partnership with Daresbury’s Hartree Centre will give our R&D community a powerful competitive edge when we have fully integrated the high performance computing capabilities of Daresbury. Through this partnership we’ll be able to tackle even bigger scientific challenges and unlock breakthrough innovations faster."

Based at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, which sits within the Sci-Tech Daresbury science and innovation campus, the Hartree Centre was officially opened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon George Osborne, on Friday 1 February. Home to the most powerful supercomputer in the UK, nicknamed the "Blue Joule", it is one of the fastest computers in the world, capable of more than 15 trillion calculations per second, and is linked to the Hartree Centre’s cutting edge 3D Visualisation Suite.

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC said: "STFC is very excited to be Unilever’s R&D partner of choice for high performance computing as it continues to be a world leader in the development of innovative and environmentally friendly products. Our aim is to bridge the gap between science and industry to the benefit of UK companies and, through this agreement, we expect to contribute to the competitiveness of Unilever by supporting their growth ambitions in the fast moving consumer goods sector worldwide."

Work between Unilever and the Hartree Centre is already underway in the development of ‘Computer Aided Formulation’ (CAF), through which months of laboratory bench work can be completed within minutes by a tool designed to run as an ‘App’ on a tablet or laptop which is connected remotely to the Blue Joule supercomputer at Daresbury. This tool predicts the behaviour and structure of different concentrations of liquid compounds, both in the bottle and in-use, and helps researchers plan fewer and more focussed experiments.

Massimo Noro, Relationship Manager at Unilever, said: "Unilever recognises that developing a partnership with STFC Daresbury will allow us to harness the power of supercomputers to accelerate our discovery processes. CAF is just one of the challenges that we’ll be working on with STFC’s Hartree Centre in the coming years."

Notes to Editors

 The £30million funding announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer formed part of the £600m announced by the government in the 2012 Autumn Statement.

£19 million of this investment was allocated to Daresbury’s Laboratory’s Hartree Centre to support the progress of power efficient computing technologies designed for a range of industrial and scientific applications, and the development of software that can handle the huge amounts of data created by large experimental research initiatives.

The other £11million was earmarked for the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope, to develop the software capable handling the unprecedented amount of data it would produce.

Images: Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC, and Jim Crilly, Senior Vice President, Strategic Science Group at Unilever

See STFC YouTube film of Chancellor visiting STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory (link opens in a new window)


Wendy Ellison
STFC Press Officer
Mob: 07919 548012

About STFC 

Last updated: 18 February 2013


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