Walmart issues 'Open Call' for innovation

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) has issued an "Open Call" for technology innovation as the retailer continues to seek out solutions across all channels of retail.

Walmart's Lab 415-C is inviting roughly 250 companies to its Bentonville, Arkansas offices to pitch executives for the chance to be a finalist. The program is part of the second Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, and while Walmart participated in the first event last year, "this is the first year we're doing it at this scale by reaching out to companies," said Tom Douglass, director, Walmart Lab 415-C.

There's also a website developed expressly for the program where companies can apply.

Lab 415-C evaluates and tests products, exploring everything from augmented reality to the Internet of Things. In this effort, the lab will be looking for technology to help accelerate Walmart's efforts in improving the customer experience in stores and across channels. Walmart is particularly looking to implement new solutions in fresh foods.

"We are looking to enhance the fresh experience for the customer, and also looking at in-store robotics and how it can enhance the [in-store] experience or services," Douglass told FierceRetail.

Applicants have a July 22 deadline and the finalists will be notified in early August. The pool will be narrowed to 25 to 30 companies, who will then pitch executives during the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit Oct. 6 in the company's auditorium.

Walmart senior executives will be in the room, presenting a unique opportunity to get in front of decision-makers.

Ultimately the chosen technology companies will be offered space in Walmart's innovation lab, or depending on where they are in the experimentation process, the ability to go to a site and conduct tests.

This isn't the first time Walmart has gone looking for innovators – last year it went to the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 Hackathon, a 24-hour event where interested parties can participate in a custom project, compete for a cash prize, and get the chance to test their project with Walmart.

For more:
- see this application for the open call