RB opens £200m innovation hub in Hull

Health and hygiene supplier RB, formerly Reckitt Benckiser, today opens a £200m science and innovation centre in Hull as a “magnet” for the best scientific talent with 200 new jobs created.

The new consumer health laboratory, is accompanied by a £95m investment to upgrade manufacturing facilities in the city, employing 1,400 people.

One of six major R&D facilities worldwide, the technical innovation hub for household-name consumer health products such as Nurofen and Strepsils, follows a comprehensive review which considered other centres across the globe.

We asked our employees to shape what the new culture should look like, because they are the people who are going to make it happen” – Claire Gardner, HR business partner

RB said the investment reflects both the existing consumer health expertise in the UK and the government’s attitude towards encouraging innovation, science and technology, especially in the North.

Chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said: “Despite the current macro-economic uncertainty in the UK, it is our firm belief that our new centre will help the country further develop its scientific talent and R&D credentials. It underlines our view that the UK is the best place to invest in consumer health R&D.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI said: “RB’s decision to build this centre in the Humber region is testament to how innovative R&D can thrive in the regions.”

She added: “There remains a clear innovation investment imbalance between London and the South East and the rest of the UK. As we look beyond Brexit, the challenge for government and business is to create the best conditions for innovation to prosper in every region of the UK.”

RB is partnering with Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull to offer a new MSc in pharmacology and drug development. The MSc programme will provide students with insights into the entire development journey of a clinical drug from laboratory to consumers’ homes. Students will have access to RB’s Hull hub, and RB employees will deliver lectures and provide mentoring.

R&D teams for seven of RB’s biggest brands are based in Hull, while more than 300 million consumer units, comprising 1,000 different products, including Lemsip, Bonjela and E45, are manufactured at its city site each year. Over half of the company’s Hull-based employees work in science, and almost half of the global R&D workforce is based in Hull.

Claire Gardner, senior HR business partner at RB, said: “We have a new building, new systems and new processes, but that alone was not going to make this a centre of excellence. So we asked our employees to shape what the new culture should look like, because they are the people who are going to make it happen.

“We are proud of providing our employees with the freedom to succeed through an entrepreneurial and innovative environment.”

Staff played a key role in the design of the centre, with a focus on creating a community, enabling collaboration and encouraging more agile working. Team members helped develop progressive ways of working and were involved in the design of workspaces.

Innovations designed to encourage collaborative working include the establishment of “power teams”, which support RB’s key brands by bringing together colleagues from different functions to focus on a product all the way from concept to consumer experience.

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