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BBC announces six-month Internet startup incubator

The story of old media losing out to the web is now a familiar narrative. But one very old media icon, the BBC, wants to aggressively put itself squarely in the middle of the next phase of digital media innovation with a new program called BBC Worldwide Labs.

The initiative is a six-month program that will offer five digital media start-ups the opportunity to work directly with the BBC Worldwide team, including sales, marketing and legal, as well as attend a number of mentoring sessions and exclusive networking events.

An initial pool of 18 companies will be selected, ending with a final five that will work inside the BBC Worldwide Labs offices for the duration of the program. Although the program is looking for companies based in the UK, its goal is to foster the growth of companies that are focused on global reach. The launch event will happen later this week at the Google Campus in Shoreditch, hosted by Dan Heaf, managing director of digital for BBC Worldwide, and Jenny Fielding, head of BBC Worldwide Labs.

The location of the event is another nod toward the development of what has become known Tech City, London's emerging answer to Silicon Valley. In the past, the area of Shoreditch was primarily known as a breeding ground for cutting-edge artists and multimedia creatives, but over the years cheaper rents and a lively social scene attracted increasing numbers of Internet start-up shops. The cluster of Internet-focused companies eventually gave rise to the informal moniker "Silicon Roundabout," a descriptor signalling the area's organic growth into a hub for tech start-ups. In 2010, the UK government decided to give the area a boost, naming its initiative Tech City. Today, Tech City includes the likes of Cisco, Intel, Google, Airbnb, Yammer and hundreds of other tech companies.

Although BBC Worldwide Labs will provide a wide array of support for the selected start-ups, it will not take equity in the actual businesses. The deadline for applications is 15 July and finalists will be announced on 15 August.