Unilever, John Lewis and EE launch £1m Tech City internet of things competition

Major brands including Unilever, John Lewis and EE have pledged their marketing support to a £1m internet of things competition launched in collaboration with Tech City UK, the Technology Strategy Board and Cambridge Wireless.

Tech City internet of things launchpad competition
Tech City has partnered EE, John Lewis and Unilever, among others, to launch a £1m internet of things launchpad competition.

The “launchpad”, which is also being supported by micro seed investment fund Seedcamp and software company Red Gate, is open to start-ups registered in the UK with a connection to the London or Cambridge tech clusters that are developing ideas, prototypes or have existing businesses working within the internet of things space.

The Technology Strategy Board says it is looking for projects that may be “risky” for companies to take forward without any support, or that may take them into “new, innovative areas”.

The competition will offer marketing and business support, mentorship, routes to market and up to £1m in funding to the winners. The closing date for submissions is 3 September. 

EE has pledged to provide retail and in-store marketing space along with marketing support and distribution channels for appropriate winners; John Lewis will offer to list suitable products for an agreed period, offering POS and marketing support and mentoring; and Unilever has agreed to match funding of up to 50 per cent for any suitable competition winners as well as marketing, mentorship and business support.

Both Unilever and John Lewis have both recently launched high profile technology incubators: The Unilever Foundry and JLAB, respectively. 

Keith Weed, Unilever chief marketing and communications officer, says of the internet of things launchpad competition: “We strive to be at the forefront of marketing and media innovation; to have our brands engage in the most creative, efficient and effective ways with the people we serve. That is why we launched The Unilever Foundry and it is also why we are delighted to be participating in the internet of things competition. We have been working with start-ups for years and twinned with our commitment to being at the leading edge of internet of things development, this competition will afford us a further exciting opportunity to engage with tech start-ups.”

The launchpad competition comes three months after Prime Minister David Cameron announced the Government is to double the amount of funding it places into research for the development of “internet of things” technologies to £73m, as it looks to make the UK one of the pioneers of “the new industrial revolution”. 

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 26 billion devices will be transmitting data via the internet.

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