The partnership has been launched with the Tsinghua x-lab, the university’s platform for entrepreneurship and innovation.
“The R&D innovation challenge is part of our R&D efforts to accelerate the innovation of products that meet local consumer needs in collaboration with external partners, including universities and start-ups,” Nestle R&D China Head Chris Pipe told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[The aim is to] work collaboratively to identify sustainable and scalable innovative solutions, [which will in turn] help to accelerate the innovation of products or processes.”
Responding to queries on the types of new innovations expected to emerge from this, Pipe added that the challenge will be focused on the four areas of packaging for e-commerce delivery, packaging for the festive season, education and consumer engagement, and recyclability/reusability.
“We are committed to exploring all possible alternative packaging solutions,” he said.
As part of the challenge, participants will go through a five-month acceleration programme, during which they will be granted access to the Nestle R&D infrastructure such as laboratories and prototyping facilities, as well as get expert guidance at the company’s Beijing R&D centre.
The final judgement will be in front of a panel comprising representatives from Nestle, Tsinghua University and other industry experts, to which the participants will need to pitch their ideas during a final concluding event.
“The top three [most] compelling ideas will be awarded prizes and the opportunity to further develop their concept in partnership with Nestle,” said Pipe.
This is the company’s first challenge of the sort with Tsinghua University, so for this pilot run participation has been limited to the university faculty.
“This time, we are focusing on the students and faculty of Tsinghua university [so this is not open to members of the public just yet],” the company said.
Nestle’s packaging commitments
According to Pipe, this challenge is also in line with Nestle’s commitment to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025, which the company announced back in April 2018.
As part of this commitment, the company had promised to focus on the areas of pioneering alternative materials, stop plastic leakage into the environment across its operations, and drive new behaviour – resulting innovations from the challenge would likely address at least one of these three.
In addition, Nestle established a specialised Institute of Packaging Sciences in January this year, part of its global research organisation primarily based in Lausanne, Switzerland but also with several locations including in China and Singapore.
“Research focus areas will include recyclable, biodegradable or compostable polymers, functional paper, as well as new packaging concepts and technologies to increase the recyclability of plastic packaging,” a Nestle spokeswoman previously told us.