Product, Service & Design Innovation
Unilever, John Lewis Help Launch £1m Internet of Things Innovation Competition

Unilever, John Lewis and EE, the UK’s largest mobile and Internet provider, have lent their support to a £1m Launchpad competition seeking game-changing innovations in Internet of Things-related technologies brewing in the UK.

Launched in collaboration with Tech City UK, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Cambridge Wireless, the competition is open to early-stage UK startups working within the London or Cambridge tech clusters that are developing ideas, prototypes or have existing businesses working within the Internet of Things space. The TSB says it is looking for projects that may be risky for companies to take forward without support, or that may take them into innovative new areas. Companies collaborating across the tech clusters of London and Cambridge are particularly encouraged to enter.

The £1M in grant funding is to be shared between multiple winners; companies can apply for anything from £50K to £150K. The competition will also offer marketing and business support, mentorship and routes to market. Submissions must be received by September 3, 2014.

Research analysts Gartner predict that by 2020, nearly 26 billion physical devices will be transmitting data to each other via the Internet. For innovators and tech engineers, the opportunity is staggering.

“It’s a transformative development, and we want Britain to be a major player in this space,” Tech City said in a statement.

Unilever, John Lewis and EE, along with venture capital firm Seedcamp and software company Red Gate, have signed on to offer winners a host of resources and advantages: EE will provide retail space, marketing support and distribution channels; John Lewis will also sell suitable winning products, and offer POS and marketing support and mentoring; and Unilever has said it will match funding of up to 50 percent for any suitable competition winners, and provide marketing, mentorship and business support.

Late last month, Unilever announced the launch of its own startup technology incubator, The Unilever Foundry.

Keith Weed, Unilever's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, says: “We strive to be at the forefront of marketing and media innovation; to have our brands engage in the most creative, efficient and effective ways with the people we serve. That is why we launched The Unilever Foundry and it is also why we are delighted to be participating in the Internet of Things competition. We have been working with startups for years and twinned with our commitment to being at the leading edge of Internet of Things development, this competition will afford us a further exciting opportunity to engage with tech startups.”

The launchpad competition comes three months after Prime Minister David Cameron announced the Government is planning to double the amount of funding it places into research for the development of Internet of things technologies to £73m, in an effort to make the UK one of the pioneers of “the new industrial revolution,” according to Marketing Week.

Speaking of giving innovative startups a hand up, just ahead of the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) earlier this month, PRé announced that, through the end of the year, it will provide complimentary sustainability metrics assessments to promising mission-driven startups, in order to accelerate their expansion. Beginning with this year’s SBIO winner, FoodLoop, PRé says it will select a new startup recipient every two months. Startups can apply for a free Sustainability Metrics Assessment here — the next deadline to apply is Friday, August 8th.

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