Entrepreneurs, innovative companies and technology starts-ups have until the end of this week to apply for a new US retail programme which aims to bring innovation and new thinking to the fashion sector.

Companies with solutions covering fashion retail technology, including systems for data standardisation, optimisation and visualisation, customer engagement, security, geo-location, RFID, iBeacon, micro-manufacturing, wearables and 3D printing, are invited to apply to the newly formed course, run by The New York Fashion Tech (NYFT) Lab.

All businesses or individuals must be ready to test a working beta of their technology, with the selected companies enrolled onto a 12-week programme, starting in May, that will give them exclusive access to the lab's founding members, which include Estee Lauder, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Macy's and Ralph Lauren.

Throughout the course, the participants will work alongside mentors who will help them fine-tune and develop their technologies and business strategies, in a retail context. The programme will culminate in July with a Demo Day presentation by all participants in front of an audience of venture capitalists and industry executives.

The NYFT Lab is a collaboration between the US's major fashion retailers and tech innovators, and its latest programme is powered by venture-catalyst Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for New York City. Applications will be accepted up until 4 April 2014 at the NYFT Lab website.

Kay Koplovitz, co-chair of NYFT Lab, board member of Kate Spade & Company and chairman of Springboard Enterprises, commented: "We're looking for entrepreneurs who have innovative technology solutions that address the needs of the fashion and retail industry, including technologies from other sectors that can be redirected to fashion and retail."

Innovation is currently high on retail's agenda around the world, as a host of new technologies continue to give companies operating in the sector an opportunity to better connect with their customers across a multitude of selling platforms.

Last month, Canada-based visual product search platform Slyce announced the close of its latest round of funding, which saw it raise over $14.5 million from private investment. 

The Slyce technology enables a retailer's customer to take a smartphone picture of any item they find, or hover over any online image, and be instantly provided with an opportunity to buy that product or close-matching goods from that company's inventory.

It is this type of technology that many leading fashion retailers are looking to introduce to their businesses, as they battle to grow their share of an increasingly competitive market.

Mark Elfenbein, chief digital officer at Slyce, said: "Right now, retailers are having to rapidly adapt to the changing ways consumers are choosing to shop.

"Visual product search literally puts the retailer wherever their customer is when they become inspired to buy a product, making the entire physical world a showroom. This is a major disruption to the industry as it stands right now."