John Lewis Partnership has extended its tech innovation programme JLab to run all year long with the first initiative focused on health and wellbeing.

JLab, which launched five years ago, will no longer run as a once-a-year 12-week programme – instead, three separate rounds will run in 2018.

Waitrose, which joined the programme last year, has set the first challenge and is seeking start-ups with customer facing, digital propositions that give shoppers advice and inspiration that make it easier for them to lead healthy lifestyles and eat more healthily.

Successful applicants will have access to expert advice and mentorship from senior leaders at John Lewis and Waitrose, product validation from retail experts and customers, investment from the JLab fund and office space.

John Lewis Partnership futurologist John Vary said: “As more and more businesses face digital disruption, it’s increasingly important for the Partnership to stay committed to the ideals of our founder, John Spedan Lewis, by experimenting and nurturing innovation both inside and outside our business.

“This is exactly why we have created a completely new JLab for 2018. We wanted to take the programme to the next level by launching more events but with a focus on themes we feel are most significant to our customers as well as the future of retail. We’re excited to see the market challenging ideas businesses will put forward.”

A new partner

JLab 2018 will be run in association with True, which specialises in the retail and consumer sector and brings together private equity companies, start-up innovators and investors.

True chief commercial officer Mike Tattersall said: “As the pace of change accelerates in both technology and consumer behaviour, our broad viewpoint and ability to create reciprocal advantage across our Live Network of start-up innovators, fast-paced digitally-forward companies, and multi-billion dollar enterprises is increasingly valuable to all our stakeholders.”

Applications to pitch ideas can be made via and will close a month from today.

The John Lewis Partnership and True will then select a small group to pitch in June, with the successful business or businesses unveiled later this year.

Last year John Lewis made investments in two companies – WeFiFo, which connects home chefs, supper club hosts and professional chefs with paying guests, and Exaactly, an intelligent addressing system that aims to put an end to failed deliveries.