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Plant Science & Technology Lead

Job ID:
Sharnbrook, England
Date posted:

Plant Science & Technology Lead

Location: Colworth

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2 billion consumers a day. Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes around the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Marmite, Magnum and Lynx. Faced with the challenge of climate change and the need for human development, we want to move towards a world where everyone can live well and within the natural limits of the planet. That’s why our purpose is ‘to make sustainable living commonplace”

The role is based in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool, where you can find our offices, factories and Research & Development Centre at your fingertips. Our purpose, to make sustainable living commonplace, is rooted in the history of the Port Sunlight site. It’s a thread that connects us to our founder, Lord Lever, and his social mission to improve health, hygiene and livelihoods.

We are a global team who innovate boldly to create the products and experiences that improve people’s health, confidence and wellbeing and positively impact the health of the planet. This in turn drives sustainable, profitable growth for Unilever and our much-loved brands.

We are the innovators, scientists, engineers, chefs, technologists, regulatory experts and data scientists, bringing to life our ambitions, without being afraid to challenge our own thinking to get there.

We are award-winning leaders recognised for our expertise, celebrating the diversity and creativity in each and every one of us that makes our innovations come to life.

We are Unilever R&D.

Job Purpose

Do you want to make a difference in helping us achieve our ambition to improve the health of the planet, and to protect and regenerate nature?  Then look no further!

At Unilever we have set out to make a difference to those big issues that matter most to our business and to the world. Our goal: transformational change at system level.

Fundamental change to whole systems is needed if we are to make a genuine difference. Our transformational change agenda combines direct action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals with partnerships and external advocacy to create change on a systemic scale – while creating business opportunities and delivering relevant innovations at the same time. Our purpose-led, future-fit Unilever Compass strategy is guiding us and is built on three beliefs: brands with purpose grow; companies with purpose last; and people with purpose thrive.  

Foods & Refreshment (F&R) is one of the three Divisions of Unilever, and aims to delight consumers with foods, beverages and ice-cream that Taste Good, Feel Good and are a Force for Good, with brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, Lipton and many more.


The Science & Technology (S&T) team in the F&R Division is an agile team of enthusiastic world-class scientists who deliver business relevant solutions underpinning brand innovation programmes, based on scientific and technological capabilities. One such capability within the S&T team is plant science, where we nurture and co-develop step-changing technologies that drive efficiencies and sustainability in agriculture to enhance and improve our environment and health. Unilever recently published a set of Regenerative Agriculture Principles and there is much work to do to identify challenges, support our suppliers and farmers in our supply chain to implement these practices and demonstrate to them the benefits of making changes.  

We are looking for an experienced research scientist with broad knowledge in plant science and translational research to help build and lead the programme in this space. 

The successful candidate will play a leading role in defining, developing, and implementing the strategy and programme in the regenerative agriculture space while working alongside a small team of plant scientists and a larger internal (Sustainable Sourcing & Procurement, Sustainability teams) and external ecosystem (Universities, SMEs, suppliers).


You will lead a small team of plant scientists and will act as a science area expert within Unilever in plant science & agriculture and be up to date on advances in the area. You will use your network to address various challenges we face in this space and be able to apply that knowledge internally to the benefit of our supply chains, brands, and the planet. Your main responsibilities will be:

  • Lead, shape, define & execute the strategy & programme for the team.
    • scope new technology areas, to support our Regenerative Agriculture Principles metrics and Climate & Nature commitments to aid suppliers in implementing these practices.
    • scope & assess future technology developments to reduce the impact of food systems on the planet.
    • define and steer scientific projects and interactions with our ecosystem partners.
    • build business cases for research.
    • translate the science into innovations, claims and communications.
    • secure funding both internally and externally to address current & future challenges.
  • Drive cross-functional collaboration (supply chain, sustainability, category) and be the scientific lead in cross-functional teams.
  • Communicate ideas and progress to stakeholders.
  • Manage a small internal team.

All about you

  • MSc or higher (ideally PhD level or equivalent) in a relevant subject area such as plant & soil sciences.
  • Track-record of delivery in a science & technology role in industry.
  • Expertise or very good appreciation of the following areas: advanced molecular biology/plant breeding, soils, crop modelling, crop physiology, crop nutrition.
  • Proven experience in R&D project management.
  • A purpose-driven desire to change the food system, passionate & knowledgeable advocate for sustainability. Wanting to drive climate and environmental impact from a systems approach ensuring we go from doing no harm to doing good.
  • An understanding of global food & farming systems & policies and challenges that need to be unlocked for change.
  • Excellent communications skills, strategic thinking & influencing with the ability to communicate and engage on different levels, managing multiple stakeholders and defending your agenda.
  • Established broad network, including academics & NGOs, in plant/soil science areas.
  • Experience of managing and nurturing talent within a scientific team.

What we offer

Opportunity to work on brands with the power to brighten peoples’ lives all over the world. Be part of a diverse and ambitious team shaping the future of F&R brands. Exciting career opportunities in a global, purpose led business. We are looking for the right people for our roles and our ambition, we are open to talk about how our flexible working policies can make this role the right one for you. In addition, we offer:

  • Competitive Salary (base salary + bonus)
  • Agile Working
  • Share scheme
  • Private medical insurance (BUPA)
  • Well-being resources
  • Unilever Discounts

The role is based in Colworth, a site that has a strong track record of building and contributing to a number of our brands including Lipton, PG Tips, Magnum, Cornetto, Ponds and Dove. It is one of our two main R&D centres in the UK.

Diversity at Unilever is about inclusion, embracing differences, creating possibilities and growing together for better business performance. We embrace diversity in our workforce. This means giving full and fair consideration to all applicants and continuing development of all employees regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity.

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