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John Lewis looks to the future of retail with JLAB tech incubator

John Lewis has announced JLAB, a new project which invites startups to propose ideas that aim to change the future of shopping.

Startups and entrepreneurs can apply as of now, putting forward their would-be technological innovations that could be the next big thing in retail.

Five of them will then be selected – by John Lewis and its partner in the scheme, tech entrepreneur Stuart Marks – to take part in the JLAB “technology incubator.” Those startups will be based in the JLAB and given funding (£12,500 for a 4 per cent stake in the business) and guidance to work on their ideas from June through to September (15 weeks in total).

Advice will be forthcoming from not just John Lewis execs, but a panel of mentors and experienced tech investors as well. The mentors will choose the winning project in September, with the company gaining an investment of £100,000 (£50,000 apiece from John Lewis and Stuart Marks) and the chance to trial their solution in-store. If that trial is successful, the winning idea will be rolled out for real in John Lewis stores across the country.

Andrew Murphy, Retail Director at John Lewis, noted that would-be JLAB applicants need to focus on solutions that will benefit the customer in terms of both the in-store and online shopping experience. The focus of the innovation John Lewis wants to see is built around helping the customer, and both simplifying and personalising their shopping experience.

The tech lab is being launched just after John Lewis celebrates its 150th anniversary in May.

Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, commented: “The Partnership’s founder, John Spedan Lewis, was a radical entrepreneur and so adopting a novel approach to business and retail innovation is not new to us, it’s a fundamental part of our DNA.”

“Our 150 year anniversary not only gives us the chance to reflect on our history, but to look forward at how we shape the next 150 years. We have been ahead of the game in omnichannel retailing and through our JLAB incubator we will nurture the next generation of technology startups while helping ensure we remain on the cutting-edge of retail change.”

If you want to apply, check out the JLAB site here.