The Next Generation of Innovators

Our Technology Graduates could be developing the next big innovation for Tesco right now.

One of the things we’re clear about at Tesco Labs is that we’re not the only innovators in the business. Everybody at Tesco is constantly thinking about how to serve our customers a little better.

One way we help to facilitate this is through our Early Careers programme. For the last five years we have been running an Innovation Placement for Technology Graduates which gives the next generation of Tesco colleagues an opportunity to share their ideas and apply their own solutions to business problems.

Although the format has evolved over the years the essence has remained the same. It’s an opportunity for all Technology Graduates to run their own project from idea creation through to proof-of-concept. This involves identifying an opportunity or need, doing their own research into the problem space, generating ideas, planning, designing and developing a working proof-of-concept, and then finally presenting this back to senior stakeholders from across the business.

We support the graduates through the placement, sharing tools and processes and providing technical training that will help them on their way, but we try to allow as much autonomy as possible. It is this autonomy that makes it equally challenging and enjoyable.


“It was 100% the most enjoyable month I’ve had so far at Tesco and I learnt a hell of a lot while doing it.”

Nick Wake, Technology Graduate

The graduates will typically work in groups of four, so collaboration is key to a successful placement. For many it can be a steep learning curve as they will be learning and applying new technologies in an extremely short space of time, they only have 3-4 weeks during the build phase to actually develop a working proof-of-concept that they are able to demonstrate to stakeholders.

We have so far seen 82 graduates come through the placement, working on 28 different projects over the five years. Every single proof-of-concept that we’ve seen demonstrated is an impressive achievement and is testament to the hard work put into it.

Although we don’t measure success in how far the ideas are taken beyond the presentation stage, as it’s really about what the teams learn along the way and the skills they can take forward into their future career at Tesco, we are always pleased and extremely proud to see ideas picked up and developed further.

One such idea is Tesco BackIt which launched last month. It’s a wonderful example of how nurturing even the earliest seed of an idea can help it grow into something great.

Project: Inform

Putting information into the hand of our colleagues.

Background and Introduction

A lot has changed over the last decade. Most of us now carry a powerful computer in their pocket – their smartphone.

Tesco currently offer various customer apps across a number of platforms. Our grocery shopping app is actually now in its third generation and there is lots more to come in that area.

Continuing in this vein “Inform” is our first ‘colleague’ app and we’ve now launched it to all store managers in the UK.

Goals and Objectives

If you’re a store manager you can scan a barcode on a product or on a shelf edge label and quickly get back a load of information about the product from the central systems.

If there’s no product left on the shelf they can use this information to do some troubleshooting to find out what has happened and hopefully get the product back on sale.

Where We’re At Now

So far in trials it has been very successful and colleagues really love having this information at their fingertips.

They can also have it on whatever device they’re used to; iOS or Android (with Windows phone coming soon).

As the world gets more and more mobile we will see more apps that help our colleagues as well our customers get access to useful information.

Game design competition mentoring

We’ve been mentoring the next generation of designers and developers at BAFTA’s Young Game Designer competition.

You might wonder what game design has to do with a supermarket, but you’ll see from this blog soon enough that we’re not your average supermarket team. Recently a few of the team took part in some mentoring sessions as part of BAFTA’s Young Game Designers competition  (http://ygd.bafta.org/). The idea was to give them help develop their concepts and work out how they were going to build the games themselves.

The first stage was to visit them at their schools. Before the mentoring session itself took place we presented some of the things we’ve been working on to a couple of classes studying computing to show them how some of the subjects they’re studying might relate to real life use. It obviously got their imaginations going as at the end of the talk they asked plenty of questions and had some ideas about how we could use some of the technology we had talked about to make things better for customers and colleagues. We like to think we’re pretty up to date with technology and how to use it, but we think it’s really important to make sure we talk to young people about their views on the future as they are the customers of the future. It was impressive how switched on they all were when coming up with different ideas too.

After a call in-between meetings the teams came to visit us at Tesco and Dunnhumby HQ where they got hands on with some of the gadgets we’ve got in the lab. We also got an update on their progress and a chance to make sure they had everything lined up for submission.

We think it’s really important that we get involved in outreach opportunities like this and do all we can to excite young people about possible careers in technology and other STEM subjects as they grow in importance for organisations like ours.

Now the entries have all been submitted for the judging now so we’ve got our fingers crossed for the teams we helped!