That could include virtual reality experiences or the use of artificial intelligence to create personalized drinks choices.
First focus: how do people unwind and entertain at home?
Diageo’s Distill Ventures already focuses on early-stage start-ups. Fusion will complement that by attracting growth-stage tech companies working on digital concepts.
“By combining Diageo’s strategic innovation pipeline and brand-building expertise with cutting-edge technologies and ideas from external pioneers, the program will help Diageo shape the future of social celebration,” says the London-headquartered company.
The theme for the first cohort is ‘Celebrate at Home’, with participants set to explore new frontiers in how people unwind, experiment, and entertain in their own spaces.
“Diageo is particularly excited about the potential to harness the latest technology to create highly individualised experiences for the home; whether using AI to hand-pick product recommendations, or the latest VR and AR technology to transform a living room into a 20,000 person music arena, where everyone has a front row seat,” explains the company.
Applicants for the program can come from both within and outside the drinks industry.
The 13-week program will start in January 2024, and Diageo is now accepting applications to identify 15 companies for the first cohort.
“Participants will gain access to Diageo’s industry expertise and consumer insights, alongside external speakers and coaching, to help develop consumer-focused, digital concepts,” explains the company.
“Chosen participants will have already launched digital products in market, and have secured sufficient financial runway via venture funding or alternative means.”
The program will be split into two phases, the first involving broad concept ideation and the second a refinement of the concept.
The second phase will conclude with an in-person ‘Demo Day’, where Diageo will select up to five concepts to progress to a post program pilot stage. During this post-program ‘build’ stage, selected participants will be offered an opportunity to enter a commercial relationship with Diageo, and given the support required to co-develop, validate, refine, and launch new products in market.
Beer and spirits heavyweight Diageo, which boasts brands ranging from Guinness to Tanqueray, has already been involved with a number of tech-focused companies.
It’s worked with Ripples (a company which prints high-resolution images on top of beverage foam); Vivanda (a flavor matching tech company it acquired last year); Aircards (which created an enhanced reality experience to suggest tailored whiskey experiences); and GladCloud (a free social media marketing tool).
Guy Middleton, Global Breakthrough Innovation Director, said: “Our portfolio consists of some of the most iconic brands in the world and it is our job to ensure that our brands remain at the forefront of social celebration. The Fusion Partnership Lab allows us to build and explore the consumer experience of tomorrow in collaboration with some of the best entrepreneurs.”
Diageo plans to scale the program and run future editions, each focused on a different priority area for the business. All participants will become Fusion by Diageo alumni, a growing community of pioneers redefining how we ‘celebrate life, every day, everywhere.’
For more information about the programme and the application process, visit www.fusionpartnershiplab.com. The deadline for applications is 24 November 2023.