Tesco opens up to new innovation with 'Red Door' disruption programme

Tesco is looking for innovators to work with the business, as it seeks partners that can help the grocer create “true competitive advantage” and improve the way it serves shoppers.

At a virtual event for international innovators and technology start-ups on Wednesday (9 September), the UK’s largest retailer announced it was inviting organisations with new products, ideas, or emerging technologies to get in touch. The supermarket chain has called the initiative ‘Tesco Red Door’.

Tesco’s newly established group innovation team, led by ex-Tesco Mobile boss Claire Lorains who became group innovation director in November last year, wants to connect with companies that can “cause disruption in the future”. Its initial focus is on four priority areas that it predicts will deliver the biggest impact: food & drink products and technology; data; robotics and automation; and packaging.

The innovation team will be the single point of contact, responsible for quickly evaluating ideas, supporting partners in accessing Tesco, and helping them to develop and implement their concepts.

Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco, said: “A strong pipeline of innovation is essential in ensuring we can anticipate and respond to our customers’ needs, and we believe there is an opportunity now to welcome even more innovation into our business, and to do it faster.

“Our new group innovation team will help us to access the most exciting innovators from across the globe. In turn, we can offer those partners a unique opportunity to build and develop their ideas rapidly and at scale, using the benefits of our experience and access to market.”

Lorains added: “In the short time we’ve been together, our multi-disciplinary team has already built networks in key innovation locations, and seen over 200 innovations.

“We’re moving quickly, and I’m delighted to see some of the ideas already coming to market. There’s lots more to come, as we work with partners to develop new and disruptive innovations, and we welcome approaches from anyone with an idea to share.”

Tesco said its Red Door programme represented a “natural next step” in its innovation journey, building on its five-year turnaround under Lewis, who is set to leave the business later in 2020. During his tenure, Lewis has overseen the launch of several innovative brands, products and services, as well as the introduction of new technology and systems.

The new innovation team brings together Tesco’s core business functions, and reports directly to the Group CEO, which from October will be Ken Murphy. The team said it has already established networks in London, San Francisco and Israel, which is describes as key innovation hotspots that give the group access to emerging technology.

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