Nestle, Danone announce new nutrition R&D centres

European functional food big-hitters Nestlé and Danone have simultaneously launched bids to strengthen their hands in the area of R&D.

Switzerland-based Nestlé has opened its first research unit in the spiritual home of functional foods, Japan. Based at the University of Tokyo, Nestlé said the centre would focus on "fundamental research in nutrition and health".

The collaboration will be underpinned by a new joint research programme, dubbed "Food for Life". This will explore emerging research topics in health and nutrition, such as healthy ageing, with a special focus on mobility and cognitive performance.

The research would "provide the scientific basis for developing new products that will bring health benefits to consumers in Japan and worldwide", Nestlé said.

The Vevey-based food giant has committed around CHF1 million \[$940,000\] over a period of three years to endow a chair at the university. The collaboration will involve the secondment of scientists from the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne to the university.

Meanwhile, rival Danone said it would open a new innovation centre in the Netherlands, on the Utrecht Science Park, in 2012.

The France-based company said the move would represent "a significant investment" designed to strengthen its research and development presence and expertise in specialised nutrition, notably baby nutrition and medical nutrition. It intended to integrate its existing Dutch R&D activities in the new centre.

"The planned Danone innovation centre in Utrecht will create excellent opportunities for the growth of our business and employees," said Danone head of R&D Sven Thormahlen. "We want to build a new innovation centre for specialised nutrition for the 21st century in Utrecht Science Park. This is a reflection of the quality of the current teams and our desire to attract international talent. The Utrecht location is close to our baby and medical business in Amsterdam and gives us the possibility to strengthen this relationship. Our investment will give Danone another world-class research centre, to join our existing facility in Palaiseau, near Paris."

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