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Site for success

The London Innovation Centre is the innovative force behind many of Procter & Gamble Co's most successful products

London Innovation Centre

Lacoste Challenge

Situated in rural Surrey, P&G?s London Innovation Centre (LINC) is a hub of truly original thinking that unites over 800 employees from 41 different nationalities. Specialising in personal beauty, oral care, personal health care, hair colour and prestige products, LINC provides a range of goods and services that ensure it remains at the cutting edge of global innovation.

The LINC site is currently undergoing a three-year renovation programme that will cut its energy consumption by 38%, making it one of the UK?s greenest innovation centres. And while work continues on the exterior, the interior remains a hive of activity. Take skin care. Understanding skin science and chemistry has transformed the market, with P&G leading the way with innovative analysis procedures and imaging techniques. Another core innovation discipline at LINC is fine fragrance creation & development. Here, art and science come together to deliver some of the world?s greatest fragrances from an ever-increasing range of natural and synthetic oils.

And the innovation doesn?t stop at product & package development. Counterfeit products account for 3% of all goods sold globally, rising to 20% of the total in China, and LINC is at the forefront of fighting the fraud. Its analysis and detection department is a co-ordinated global multi-functional group that is part of LINC?s innovation efforts. It uses a combination of high-tech equipment and chemicals to detect counterfeit goods, as well as devising a range of portable detection products that can be used in ports, shops, and so on.

The secret to P&G?s success in these markets, though, is collaboration. Its skin imaging techniques, for example, would not exist without the use of technology used in both the medical and automotive industries, while outside fragrance oil-making houses provide the building blocks necessary to create new and ever-more exciting fragrances.

Thanks to P&G?s Connect + Develop ethos, agreements with third parties across a range of industries have been forged at LINC, unlocking a wealth of innovation. LINC has proved that cross-corporate collaboration is the key to innovative success.

?We are looking for win-win partnerships?

Sumit Bhasin, Site Director at the London Innovation Centre, explains how collaboration is at the heart of the LINC?s innovative ethos.

When and why was the LINC established?

The LINC was established in the mid 1980s. We actually came here through the acquisition of Richardson Vicks in 1986 and with that came some big brands ? such as Vicks, Olay, Pantene and Vidal Sassoon ? which are billion-dollar-brands today. This site used to be Richardson Vicks? major health and beauty innovation centre for the European and Middle East region. Its acquisition gave P&G the opportunity to show that it was serious about both beauty care and over-the-counter health care.

What is the purpose of the LINC?

First Defence hand foam

LINC is one of P&G?s major global innovation centres, providing an innovation hub for some of P&G?s global core categories, as well as being the major centre of innovation for products to be sold in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa. One of the unique things about the centre is that it is multi-category and multi-disciplinary ? it is one of the few centres within P&G that has over five different categories contained on one site. And with our different functions ?obviously largely R&D, but also Engineering, Product Supply and Marketing ? we have a unique opportunity to connect and develop both externally and internally, where we strive for connections to create new seeds of innovation.

What are the major product categories covered at LINC?

The major categories here are Personal Beauty, Oral Care, Hair Colour, Personal Health Care and Prestige.

Are there any particular technologies that the Centre specialises in?

We specialise in a multitude of technologies. For example, we went into the prestige business about 15 years ago, when we had less than $80m in sales. Today we have grown that to just under $3bn making us one of the world?s leading fragrance companies, largely by establishing breakthrough holistic innovation capabilities, which included a core competency of how to develop innovative fragrances and packaging ? and this is the centre that leads it for the world. We also have a real expertise in skin care; a lot of our skin care developments, from measurement to formulation technologies, form the basis of P&G?s global platforms. Some of the well-known beauty brands, such as Clairol Perfect 10, had a lot of their core technology developed at the LINC. In addition, products such as Vick?s First Defence and Crest Pro-Health were developed here.

What is the future vision for LINC within P&G?s Open Innovation philosophy?

Vicks vitality booster

The LINC lends itself to being P&G?s premier Connect and Develop innovation centre. If you look at its vicinity to London, for example, there is a huge science and talent pool available within the area in start-ups alone. In addition, London is at the centre of trends that a lot of our beauty care products cater for. The future vision for LINC is to become a major source of innovation growth, or what we call disproportionate innovation growth, for the company and we see that happening in several ways:

  • We have one of the most diverse populations on site here, with over 41 different nationalities. We consider ourselves as unconventional, resourceful and visionary, and we use our innovative and enthusiastic approach to create new solutions. We are very much externally focused. In categories such as prestige products well over 80-85 % of our innovations come from connecting with the outside world. This is similar in other categories at LINC. We see ourselves as a major player in P&G?s innovation strategy.
  • One of the other important aspects ? and one of the reasons we call ourselves the London Innovation Centre ? is that we are able to leverage the resources that are available from enterprises ranging from big universities to small companies. For example, we rely on detecting the earliest trends with information that comes from sources like the London College of Fashion and the Trend Institute.

These aspects of LINC?s work play a major role within P&G in driving innovation growth. Another important thing to add is that the diversity of the group helps us define innovation very broadly so that it goes beyond just technical innovation . Anything that?s new is very much embraced to drive the business forward.

What types of people and business would you like to be approached by?

The whole idea behind the way we approach innovation is the belief that a lot of breakthrough innovations come from non-obvious connections. Clearly, we are interested in everything from skin applications to packaging and we are open to a diversity of innovation resources. For example, a lot of the inspiration on the aluminium use that you see on our fragrance packaging came from the motor industry. Meanwhile, a lot of our work on skin imaging came from the medical industry. So we are really open for business to a multitude of applications. And we don?t care where ideas come from ? if they can be applied to our business, we are very happy to work with them and develop them.

Can you give an example of a successful innovation that has come out of the LINC?

We have had many major successes. For example, we have redefined how we look at hair colour. Some of the work that has happened on Perfect 10 is a result of the work that has been generated at the LINC. And in the prestige products category, everything from the way we create fragrances and develop our packaging and our depth of consumer understanding came from the innovative approach we have at LINC.

How do you think the LINC can develop its role within UK innovation?

We want to partner with major UK innovators, from start-ups and universities through to major industries, and I think the LINC plays a major role in actually encouraging the seeding of new ideas, which encourages people to come in and work with us. We can also give a lot back to industry because when we collaborate, we also give back the solution that we find during our collaboration, which makes it a win win situation all round. For example, we are currently collaborating with the Royal Institute of Great Britain and have done a series of ?The Science Behind Smell? lectures. Our interest was in partnering with people who are experts in the field of olefaction and sensory sciences, while we also gave something back in giving the Royal Institute some scientific background on what the sense of smell is all about.

Why should an external partner be interested in working with P&G and the LINC, and what are the benefits?

We want to see a major part of our collaboration efforts achieved through effective partnering. It?s very much part of our mission and very much part of our corporate vision. And we genuinely want to make these collaborations a win-win situation ? we want that first deal to be attractive to the other party so they come back for the second and third deal. Our ethos is to put ourselves in the other party?s shoes and make sure it works for both parties ? it has to work for both parties to be sustainable. And ideas don?t have to come from one of our particular fields either ? we have already mentioned that our skincare department uses innovations developed in the automotive industry. There is a whole variety of fields and connections that we are open to.

The scale of our company often means that if someone comes to us with a good idea and if it is successful within our product range, the other party has a big market of opportunity because of our global reach. So, we are on the lookout for win-win collaborations with anyone who is looking to work with the LINC and are aiming for strong, sustained partnerships.

If you are interested in working with the LINC or P&G
on innovation opportunities, you can go to and click on ?submit my
.? Outline your suggestion, and tell us why
and how you are interested in working with us.

Added the 06 October 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-2

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