Shopping centre giant Intu launches startup incubator programme

Intu has partnered with L Marks to launch a startup incubator programme to help advance UK retail and cater to modern consumer habits

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Shopping centre operator Intu has opened the application process for its new startup incubator programme Intu Accelerate, designed to develop partnerships with future retail innovators.

Developed in partnership with L Marks, the firm that works with John Lewis on its annual JLab, the programme aims to give selected startups 10 weeks of mentorship from Intu executives and technology experts to help them grow their businesses and ideas.

“Our business is moving at pace. To help us answer many of the questions that face us and our industry, we’re looking for the smartest minds out there and the best talent we can find,” said Intu chief executive David Fischel. “We’re looking for businesses to work with us to help achieve our purpose of making our customers smile and helping our retailers flourish.”

Other retailers, too, have used startups to integrate new ideas into old legacy systems and ways of working, or to gain a new perspective on developments in a fast-paced market.

The Intu Accelerate programme is looking for startup applicants under the following categories:  

  • Enhanced retail services – development of retail services to offer a modern customer experience, using technologies to perform activities such as predictive maintenance, consistent customer experience, and optimise waste management or facilities managements.
  • The future of shopping – development of both online and offline “experiences” to engage consumers.
  • Boost retailer productivity – development of services that can increase retailer productivity and sales.
  • Wildcard – new innovations that may not fit into the above categories.  

The omni-channel trend has forced retailers to take a different approach to their online/offline divide as customer expectation increases, with more shoppers expecting a seamless experience between store and online, fuelled by technology and personalisation.

The Intu Accelerate programme will allow selected startups to use the Intu head office in London during the 10-week incubator period. They will also be given the opportunity to develop, pilot and test their products or ideas. There is also the potential for investment once the 10 weeks is up.

The firm said its website, intu.co.uk, was treated as a startup when it was first created to represent the brand’s shopping centres in the online space – bridging the gap between online and offline.

This is becoming more important for physical shopping locations as consumer demand and expectation grows as a result of omni-channel shopping increasingly forcing physical retail locations to become “destinations for experiences” as opposed to acting as a place where people make purchases.

Applications for the Intu accelerator programme are open until 2 July 2017.

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