John Lewis JLAB part III

The application process is now open for UK department store chain John Lewis's 2016 JLAB start-up accelerator hub, which is running for the third successive year.

In partnership with L Marks, JLAB aims to support the development of new ideas, drive innovation in retail and, potentially, identify a solution that John Lewis can implement into its operations to better engage with its increasingly tech-savvy, multichannel shopper demographic.

Based in John Lewis's London HQ, chosen finalists will work with an as-yet undisclosed team of top-level mentors for 12 weeks, where they will look to benefit from commercial insight offered by the retailer's commercial, retail, online and IT directors.

Start-ups participating in JLAB will have access to capital from the dedicated micro-fund attached to the programme, with each team eligible to apply for funding of up to £100,000 from the total pot of £200,000, in exchange for equity in their company. Six months' free office space will also be made available to the winning company, as voted for by John Lewis staff.

The categories for participants to focus their efforts on in 2016 are described by John Lewis and L Marks, as the following:

Health & Wellbeing: taking care of our bodies has never been so important. Looking for exciting new products or services that can help customers look after themselves.

Simplify My Life: technology has helped us to simplify our lives in many ways, and John Lewis is looking for new ways to do this for its customers.

Effortless Shopping: bring digital inspiration to shops and help John Lewis to further understand customers’ in-store behaviour. Enable John Lewis to enhance the experience in store through self-service and other innovations.

Tech for Kids: exciting and innovative new products aimed at the tech-savvy kids of today.

Surprise Us: innovations that are so out of this world they can't be classified.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, commented: "JLAB is about bringing disruption and innovation to the retail industry – we want to develop ideas and technology that really excite John Lewis shoppers.

"To do this, it's essential that we work collaboratively with fast-growing businesses to add value to their operations. Under mentorship from John Lewis, JLAB start-ups will have a unique opportunity to hone their ideas and create a product which has a genuinely positive impact on our customers."

The 2014 JLAB winner was location-based technology firm Localz, which has helped John Lewis trial a more convenient click & collect service that identifies when customers are close to a store, allowing the retailer to prepare pre-ordered goods for collection.

Last year's triumphant party, Peeple, produces a Wi-Fi connected smart camera which attaches to front doors and alerts users when anyone arrives at their home. Designed as an 'Internet of Things' product, the camera sends a notification to the homeowner's smartphone or tablet so they can virtually look through the door peephole wherever they are located.

The deadline for 2016 applications is midnight on Sunday 8 May. John Lewis and L Marks will then select up to five start-ups to complete the 12-week JLAB programme, commencing in July 2016 and the overall winner will be announced at a showcase event in September.