Tesco has launched a speed dating-style event for start-ups in a bid to help introduce more new ideas to the business.

Head of research & development Nick Lansley and Ben Martin, head of Tesco’s mobile centre of excellence, have set up T Jam, a quarterly event where 12 start-ups pitch their ideas to 12 senior Tesco technologists, spending five minutes with each one.

Lansley said at the Retail Week Technology Summit: “We wanted to really get to know some of the start-ups. We were doing it informally but there was no formal place they could speak to Tesco. It was a bit random.”

The first T Jam was held in September and subsequent events will be held every quarter. Lansley and his team contacted the venture capital and angel investor community in London and asked for start-ups to apply, and received around 30 applications.

The event is two to three hours and has a particular topic or theme – the first event was called ‘come and inspire us’ and Lansley said Tesco is following up several ideas that were pitched during the evening. “Part of the magic was that we hadn’t thought of some of their ideas,” he said.

Future events are likely to focus on questions Tesco’s technology team would like answered. Lansley said the speed-dating format is more popular than Dragons Den-style presentations, as it means a start-up’s business model can remain confidential if they wish.

The ideas pitched to Tesco can be ready to be rolled out, or they can be at the conceptual stage – Lansley said he wants to hear from everyone.

“It means we reach people who may not have the ‘sexiest’ app but who’s idea could be really important to the company. Some of these ideas tend to get lost in the blizzard of super-social apps everywhere,” he said.