AI has already increased productivity and efficiency across a number of industries, from generative AI (GenAI) in marketing to advanced analytics and machine learning in supply chains, driving productivity and efficiency gains. But as we look to the future, how can AI be further leveraged to optimise business outcomes?
To address this question, multinational consumer goods company Unilever has established its first AI Horizon3 Lab in Toronto, Canada. This hub will serve as a dedicated centre for exploring and harnessing the full potential of AI, fostering innovation and propelling business growth.
Harnessing the power of AI to drive innovation
Established by Unilever's global Operations Data and Analytics team, the AI Horizon3 Lab adopts a hybrid model where employees will work in collaboration with academics, start-ups, and industry leaders on a number of AI research projects. This multifaceted collaboration will fuel a diverse array of AI research projects, all united by a common thread of harnessing the power of AI to drive business innovation and growth.
By embracing emerging technologies and fostering collaboration, Unilever's AI Horizon3 Lab is poised to revolutionise the company's operations, propelling it towards a future shaped by AI-powered innovation.
Andy Hill, Chief Data Officer of Unilever, says: “Unilever is making a significant investment in developing and deploying AI technology across the business. The launch of Unilever’s first AI lab will expedite the progress we are making globally and enable us to have the right focus on some of the big questions we want to answer with AI.
“We are working to solve real-life problems through innovation, and setting up this lab in Toronto allows us to access vibrant tech talent and some of the best partners in the business.”
A focus on the greatest potential
The lab is initially prioritising the three out of fifteen areas with the most immediate impact potential: forecasting, modelling complex data relationships with graph technology, and generating insights on trends, patterns and predictions through GenAI.
“We can talk about impact in two ways,” says Gary Bogdani, Unilever’s Head of Data Science for North America and Canada D&A. “They are, first, the impact on currently running initiatives and, second, the long-term potential impact of new technology.”
Driving growth and world-class talent
GenAI has already established a significant presence at Unilever, however, the continuous evolution of this technology is not only expanding its reach but also deepening its impact. Gen AI is proving particularly valuable in the area of consumer communication, where it is introducing new and more effective approaches to content delivery and consumer engagement.
While graph database applications are a relatively new area of exploration for Unilever, they offer the company the chance to tap into a wealth of untapped potential.
“The simplicity with which these graph databases can represent complex data offers many benefits such as facilitating visual representation of data and relationships,” says Gary. “They can also power recommendation engines by identifying connections between consumers and products, and support collaborative and social applications by efficiently managing connections between users, posts and interactions. These benefits are applicable right across the business from sourcing materials to analysing consumer behaviour.”
But these examples are just part of what will power the Horizon3 Lab. The other element is human intelligence and ingenuity.
“Our vision is to build an ecosystem where diverse minds come together, forging partnerships with industry leaders, start-ups, academia and visionaries worldwide to co-create solutions that make a profound impact,” explains Andy, adding that with the tech and talent in place, the lab could be a formidable force for change.
“We aim to be architects of disruptive innovations that challenge the status quo, push the envelope of what is possible, and reshape the way we do business.”
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