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Unilever Future Leaders Programme - Research and Development

Job Rotterdam, NL
Posted 1 Apr 2021

Degree level


Job function


Required language

English (Fluent)

Work experience

0 to 2 years

Start date

1 September 2021


23 Apr 2021 00:00

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Our Future Leaders Programme will ignite the leader in you. This unique programme is designed to develop Unilever’s Future Leaders (UFL) by providing challenging and purposeful opportunities that accelerate their readiness to take on business leadership roles.


Unilever is one of the largest global fast-moving consumer goods companies that owns some of the world’s much-loved brands such as Dove, Robijn, Ben & Jerrys, Lipton and Unox. Our products sold under our many brands are used 2 billion times a day and in over half the households on the planet.

We want our business to flourish, and we know that our success depends on others flourishing around us. That's why our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace, and why sustainable, long-term growth is at the heart of our business model.


By joining the Unilever Future Leaders Research and Development Programme, we want to show you how In a business whose purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace and create a brighter future, that future begins in R&D. And we are delivering this future in our Foods & Refreshment business through the recent bold new ‘Future Foods’ ambition Unilever set itself: 

  • €1 billion sales target for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives 
  • Halving food waste and raising nutritional standards across its brands
  • Targets announced are part of new global ‘Future Foods’ initiative, to support a healthier, and more sustainable global food system

R&D forms an integrated part and enabler in achieving this ambition. To this extent Unilever invested in the new Foods Innovation Center – called “Hive” – located at the ‘Silicon Valley of Food’ at Wageningen the Netherlands, to help formulate the next generation of food incl. meat and dairy alternatives – using criteria such as affordability, sustainability and taste. ‘Hive’ is the hotbed of ideas for brands, products, packaging, manufacturing and technology.

As an R&D trainee you participate in and lead global innovations for our famous Foods & Refreshment brands. You develop products from concept ideas to full-scale production – with a heavy emphasis on feasibility and understanding consumer needs. At our Foods Innovation Center ‘Hive’ you develop technologies and science for specific foods & refreshment products to make them healthier, more appealing, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. You make sure that our products are able to run in the production lines of our factories. On top of that, you work together with more than 30 different nationalities in a highly educative environment.

Unilever R&D is on a journey of transforming our organization to adopt agile ways of working, through tools, practices and principles – as well as a flexible mindset and culture. Using agile methodologies enable us to continuously plan and prioritize and collaborate across teams/squads and functions.

You are part of the Innovation Ecosystem in which you could be working with one of our technology partners, driving the delivery of a Global Programme or working with universities, scientific institutions, start-ups and industry innovators to solve business challenges.

The limitless opportunities at Unilever creates fully engaging innovative entrepreneurship.  Our people have and take the opportunity to make a big impact every day.

The Unilever Future Leaders Programme R&D is about having a big impact, right from the start. Unilever has a culture where growth means positive change, impact and influence as well as market share.


If you’re ambitious, determined, and excited by the most recent technological developments in food and making the global food system more healthy and sustainable whilst liking to think strategically about how their value could be harnessed on a global scale, then this is the career path for you.

Ask yourself the following questions: And if you can answer these affirmatively, we are looking for you!

  • Are you currently conducting a master degree in areas such as Chemical Engineering, Applied Physics, Life Science & Technology, Process Engineering, Food Technology, Data Science, Consumer Science or any other relevant degree?
  • Are you a scientist/engineer with a genuine business interest?
  • Do you have an external focus and always searching for collaboration with others?
  • Are you motivated to continuously develop yourself and to have a steep learning curve?
  • Do you have a great passion for Foods and Research & Development?
  • Do you act in a pro-active and responsible way?
  • Do you have a growth mindset and feel like a true leader?
  • Do you want to work on products which have impact on two billion people every day and are sold in 190 countries?


The programme is designed to accelerate you into a manager in 3 years (if your performance is up to our standards). You develop your individual leadership skills by working on projects which offer you the experience you need to be ready for your first management role. Over three years, you take up to three stretching rotations across our R&D programmes and Foods businesses.

  • In the end, we sell our products to consumers every day. That is why every UFLP will start their career joining our Field Force team for two months, to learn all about our consumers and customers. Both in retail (Supermarkets) as in Food Solutions (Chefs in Restaurants) and in Out of Home (all other outlets like gas stations & themeparks). It’s a great opportunity to really get to know the other “Future Leaders”. Please note that for Unilever the safety and health of our employees is top priority – therefore the continuation of the two-month Field Force rotation will depend on the Covid-19 situation at that time and the policy we have on travels. Either way we will make sure to create an exciting onboarding!
  • Career possibilities: Thereafter you take on up to three R&D rotations within three years, and may get the opportunity to work internationally. You have the opportunity for one rotation outside of R&D (based on business demand), to help you understand the full scope of our business. You work in cross functional and global teams. You get hands-on experience with real projects in which you can make a genuine business impact, for growth, for people, for brands and for sustainability.
  • The programme is packed with variety and challenge, designed to lead you through to your first managerial position.
  • Support and empowerment: We'll support you every step of the way to senior management but much of your progress will be up to you. You'll need to be focused and ambitious to get where you want, identifying opportunities and taking responsibility for your own development. Next to this, each UFLP is assigned a mentor to guide you through the 3 year programme.
  • Professional training: during the programme there will be a wide range of internal and external training programmes available to build specific R&D skills and knowledge as well as leadership skills. You will get all the support you need to build your personal development plan.
  • We have a proven tradition of developing our own purpose driven leaders and encourage innovative thinking. Future focused feedback and challenging goals drives innovation and ambition within a performance culture and an inclusive and informal environment. We will push you to achieve your potential and make a big business impact where you learn from the best. Firsthand experience – it’s the fastest way to learn. 


  • Work with exciting brands that give you a chance to make a genuine impact on people’s lives.
  • A real job from day one that continuously tests and develops your skills.
  • Local & international exposure to stay close to local consumers and harness global expertise.
  • Work with cross-functional teams to see the big picture
  • Support along the way with great (learning) development opportunities
  • Competitive primary and secondary benefits such as salary and company pension 


  • Eligibility to work in the Netherlands at the start of the program. Search year / orientation year visa is accepted as well. ;
  • You have obtained your Masters degree at the start date of the UFLP (1 september 2021)
  • Fluent level of English is required for our Research and Development track.


Our online application period runs from Thursday 1 April till Friday 23 April 2021. You need to have finished up till stage 3 (the digital interview) at the end of the online application period to be eligible for the Unilever Future Leaders Programme. We work on a first come, first serve base so finish all stages as soon as possible. In case of many good candidates, we may decide to close earlier. In that case, we will communicate this.

The entire selection process consists of 

Stage 1: Online Application*

Stage 2: Profile Assessment

Stage 3: Digital Interview

Stage 4: Discovery Center Day**

Stage 5: Job Offer.

*In the application form there is a possibility to upload your CV to fill out your personal details. This is not part of the selection process

**Our Discovery Center days will be held between 25 May and 18 June 2021.

Logo Unilever
About Unilever
to company page

- A better world. A better business. A better you -
We’ve been pioneers, innovators and future-makers for over 120 years. The success we’ve achieved means that, today, 2.5 billion people will use our products to feel good, look good and get more out of life.
Our brands (such as Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Domestos/Glorix & Robijn)...

- A better world. A better business. A better you -

We’ve been pioneers, innovators and future-makers for over 120 years. The success we’ve achieved means that, today, 2.5 billion people will use our products to feel good, look good and get more out of life.

Our brands (such as Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Domestos/Glorix & Robijn) give us a unique opportunity to create positive change, to grow our business, and to achieve our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace.

Active in 190 countries
155,000 employees
50% men - 50% women
Average age is 30 years

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