By  on March 28, 2012

PARIS — L’Oréal inaugurated its global hair research and innovation center Wednesday in Saint-Ouen, just outside Paris.

With an investment of 100 million euros, or $133.5 million at current exchange, “it is one of the biggest investments in L’Oréal Research & Innovation’s history,” chief executive officer Jean-Paul Agon said at an event to mark the opening.

“It is not only our biggest research facility worldwide, it is also, to our knowledge, the largest center for hair research in the world,” he said.

The 2.7 million square foot facility houses 500 employees, including chemists, physio-chemists, opticians, materials scientists, metrologists, rheologists, computer scientists and statisticians.

The facility will centralize L’Oréal’s hair care, color and styling research on a global basis, working as the “central nervous system” for its six regional centers in France, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, China and soon India, where the group will open a research facility in Mumbai this September.

“We are going to make the great global diversity of hair care needs into a source of innovation,” said Laurent Attal, vice president and general manager of L’Oréal Research & Innovation.

The facilities will engage in two-way information and technology sharing on a global scale, with the regional centers feeding research back to the headquarters as well as receiving expertise gained in France, the company explained.

Key priorities for L’Oréal’s hair research in the coming years are safer, easier and more pleasant to use hair colors in an increasing range of shades, scalp health and hair strength and environmentally sound washing agents, Attal explained.

Growing the group’s hair activity — which represented 36 percent of its cosmetics sales in 2011 — particularly by catering to the specific needs of a diverse array of consumers around the world, is part of L’Oréal’s ambition to recruit one billion new consumers of the next 10 to 15 years, Agon said.

The Saint-Ouen building houses new technologies at the forefront of formulation and evaluation, including a robot that can measure minute quantities of hair colorant and a machine developed in house that precisely measures the movement made by hair when various products are applied.

The researchers who work at the site were previously assigned to various L’Oréal research facilities, and it is the first time they have been grouped together at a single site with meeting spaces that the group hopes are conducive to collaboration and skill sharing.

It is also in line with the group’s environmental commitments. Agon announced, “We just found out last week that the building has been attributed with the HQE Exceptional rating,” France’s highest environmental label for buildings.

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