Unilever has appointed Professor Geneviève Berger as its chief research and development officer.

Professor Berger is currently professor of medicine at Pierre and Marie Curie University and at La Pitié-Salpétrière Teaching Hospital in Paris.

In her role Professor Berger will report directly to group chief executive, Patrick Cescau, and will join his executive team. She will be the functional leader for research and development in Unilever and will directly lead all the resources and major laboratories dedicated to the company's focus on scientific discovery.

She will also be responsible for Unilever's Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) as well as advising the executive on all matters of science and technology.

Cescau said: "I am extremely pleased to be able to welcome Geneviève to my team as an executive member. The contribution she has made to the business as a non-executive was outstanding and served to demonstrate to us how much more she could achieve in a full-time capacity. She will bring to Unilever her strong interdisciplinary background, as well as her expertise in managing science."

Professor Berger said: "I am delighted to be joining Unilever in this exciting role. During my time as a non-executive director I have been hugely impressed by the Unilever's commitment to science and to R&D in particular, but felt that the contribution that I could make was limited by time. I am hugely grateful to Patrick for giving me the opportunity to lead the function and to use my knowledge on a full-time basis."

Professor Berger, 53, will step down from the boards of Unilever plc and Unilever N.V., where she is currently a non-executive director.

Professor Berger will take up her new position at the beginning of July and at the same time will leave her current position at Pierre and Marie Curie University.