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John Lewis launches year-long JLab

John Lewis has announced that applications are now open for the retailer’s fifth JLab start-up programme, which is themed on health and well being.

Start-ups who are selected to take part in the 12-week incubator will gain access to experts from John Lewis and Waitrose, office space, investment from the JLab fund, as well the possibility to trial solutions with the retailer.

But when the 12-week programme comes to an end this summer start-ups will not have to wait another nine months before JLab opens again, because the John Lewis Partnership has announced the incubator will be running an additional two programmes in 2018, turning JLab into a year-long event.

John Lewis, futurologist, John Vary, said he gets approached by up to 60 start-ups every week. “JLab’s relentless accessibility to talent and ideas should be beyond 12 weeks,” he told a group of journalists this morning.

Jackie Wharton, director of business development at the John Lewis Partnership, said the retailer “can’t do it all ourselves”, calling on start-ups to join the programme and aid John Lewis in its search for innovation.

As part of the new-look JLab, innovation pitches will no longer be constrained to start-ups. The retailer said businesses of all sizes can pitch innovative ideas around health and wellbeing in the first incubator programme of 2018.

Wharton said JLab needed to be “open minded” about the size and shape of businesses it wants to learn from.

Archie Mason, head of business development, JLP Ventures, added: “Part of the reason we’ve done it, is to really broaden our thinking about who can come to us and be successful in JLab.”

Also different from previous JLabs is the value of the funding prize money, which is absent from today’s announcement. Last year, the shortlisted start-ups had a chance to win up to £100,000 of funding, which won by two start-ups WeFiFo and Exaactly.

The retailer told Essential Retail that investment is still available, but it also might be given to companies in different ways, such as access to in-store trials or commercial deals. Not putting a value on the investment prize money also allows the retailer to be more flexible in the size of businesses that apply to take part in the programme.

JLab 2018 is run in association with True. Applications to pitch ideas can be made via www.jlab.co.uk and will close at midnight on 25 May 2018. The John Lewis Partnership and True will then select a small group to pitch in June 2018. The successful business or businesses will be announced at a showcase later on in the year.