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Celebrating Top Young Talent and Keynote by Michiel Scheffer


Yesterday marked the 67th year of the Unilever Research Prizes event, seeing 12 talented scientists who are starting out on their careers, receive the prestigious award during a dedicated ceremony at Hive. The event was also marked by a keynote speech by Michiel Scheffer Ph.D., President of European Innovation Council for the European Commission, who highlighted the indispensable role start-ups play in bridging the gap between innovation and the market.

Groupphoto Unilever Research Prizes 2023

Unilever Research Prizes 2023

The future is bright if the incredible work of the 12 Master of Science students who received the Unilever Research Prize 2023 on November 23rd, 2023 is anything to go by.

The annual event is an important one in Unilever’s calendar, helping to strengthen our bond with the Dutch academic world. Each of the students is nominated by their academic supervisers based on the research work they have completed. They come from universities all over the Netherlands and have graduated with high honours or distinctions.

All of their chosen masters’ theses make an important contribution to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the research this year investigated previously unexplored topics, while others made ground-breaking advances in fields like bioinformatics and energy transition.

Manfred Aben, VP Science & Technology Foods & Refreshment and Site Leader for Hive, hosted the awards ceremony yesterday.

It’s clear each of you is very passionate about your chosen area of research and that is something to be celebrated. Today is about us showing our appreciation for your outstanding achievements and to acknowledge your hard work.

Carla Hilhorst, Unilever Nutrition Chief R&D Officer and Peter Dekkers, Unilever General Manager Nutrition Europe and Head of Country Netherlands, awarded the students with their prizes: a cheque for €2,500 and a special glass artwork called ‘The Helping Hands’, which symbolises the collaboration that is needed between industry and science to face global challenges together. Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer Richard Slater also gave a short address via video link to congratulate the students on their incredible achievements.

Unilever Research Prizes

The research projects awarded this year included:

  • Investigating the role of the placenta in moderating the affects of air pollution and the possible link to low birth weight.
  • Advancing the discovery of suitable drug candidates for the treatment of breast cancer.
  • Solving the urgent societal problem of electricity grid congestion with new community-driven management strategies.
  • The affects that low levels of school support and living in deprived areas has on the mental health of adolescents.
  • Better understanding emulsions by combining rheometry, 3D printing and image analysis.
  • Deciphering the instance hardness of HP-model protein folding – helping to advance medical innovations and the treatment of certain illnesses.
  • Better understanding the psychiatric condition of dissociation (common in those experiencing PTSD) and how to treat it.
  • Modelling the atmospheric dispersion and deposition of microplastics, using tyre wear as a source.
  • The affects emojis have on the perceived environmental friendliness of brands in social media marketing.
  • Investigating the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to formic acid to enable the conversion of solar and wind energy into a transportable form.

Commitment to innovation in Europe

Our esteemed guest Michiel Scheffer shared valuable insights on how European startups and scale-ups are being supported to develop innovative and impactful businesses. This is achieved through the combined efforts of the business sector and the European Innovation Council, which provide innovation support, co-funding, and the establishment of a supportive network to foster innovations and sustainable market propositions.

Dr. Scheffer is a well-known figure in the Wageningen Foods Innovation Eco-system, leading sustainable textiles initiatives at Wageningen University & Research earlier and the position of Commissioner for Economy, Innovation, Europe in the Province of Gelderland.

Science talks

Amelia Jarman, Unilever Head of Future Health and Wellness, spoke about the benefits of plant-based diets and their positive impacts on the gut microbiome and overall health, underscoring their potential as a viable and sustainable dietary choice.

Two of the award recipients, Fabiënne Gidding and Emily Ann Vanlooy, also shared details about their research findings, making important contributions to combatting the effects of global warming on food security and addressing discrimination and social issues respectively.


Find all photos of the event here (Opens in a pop-up window ).

Aftermovie Unilever Research Prizes 2023

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