Innovation drives us forward. Through our W² Labs, we are addressing the challenges of today and anticipating the challenges of the future, enabling us to do business better.

By applying technology to these challenges and combining it with our years of experience, we’re transforming future supply chains to best support British business. 
W² Labs is the only innovation programme run by a UK supply chain partner. This puts Wincanton at the forefront of innovation in this sector.
We bring together disruptors from around the world to support carefully selected challenge themes each year. 

This dynamic and immersive innovation programme is run in partnership with L Marks, the corporate innovation specialist and early-stage investor. Businesses or start-ups are invited to apply to work with Wincanton across elected categories to help shape the future of our supply chain services.

W² Labs 2024 sprint

In 2024, the W2 Labs programme is set to be even bigger and better, using technology to solve more of the challenges facing our industry.


Digital transport

To achieve efficiency and sustainability for our customers, it’s crucial we leverage pioneering technologies to extract as much value as possible out of our transport operations. Digitisation and intelligent transport optimisation is key to this goal. 

We are looking for innovation partners with solutions that will super charge our digital transport capability. Enhanced plan vs actual analytics, machine learning and predictive insights will enable us to unlock potential. We are open   to discover cutting edge technologies in AI and data analytics to shape and improve decision-making and foster cost savings and sustainability, streamlining customer experiences. 



Robotic technology has the potential to revolutionise fulfilment  operations - to drive flexibility, increase capacity and improve efficiency in the warehouse – and to ultimately achieve a smoother customer experience. We are searching for partners to  help us deliver cutting edge and cost-effective robotics solutions for our customers.

Our specialist robotics team is keen to hear from innovators who have created hardware agnostic software and control systems for warehouse automation and robotics that work for eFulfilment and beyond, with the added benefit of agile deployment. We welcome universal solutions that can integrate with existing and new infrastructure to meet the dynamic demands of modern fulfilment. 


Security and resilience

We are vigilant and proactive when it comes to the safety of our people, our operations and the security of our customers’ assets. To best serve our customers and ensure their operations remain resilient, we are looking for innovation partners with transformational and resilient solutions to enhance security. 

Our team are particularly interested in solutions which offer an intelligent front-end platform that can ingest and analyse multiple, disparate CCTV feeds, cyber security for robotics and automation (including Cloud based software), non-invasive security search technology, proactive safeguarding of our assets, and security for our mobile workers, for example HGV drivers .

Our annual programme

We are heavily invested in the success of our W2 Labs programme and seek to enhance the benefits of the start ups and SMEs we work with to help them realise business success and growth. We have carefully refined our process to make sure we pick the right partners to achieve our ambitions and the ambitions of our customers. 

Each year, we identify three key themes. Each theme represents a challenge area. One where we know that if we make progress, we can really drive UK supply chains forward. 

In some cases, we use themes that represent a challenge our customers have already identified. In others, we scan the horizon to anticipate what might arise in the coming years. In 2022, for example, we looked at digital fulfilment, ESG and technology and robotics. In previous years, we have looked at issues as diverse as workplace safety and intelligent decision making.

For each theme we create a comprehensive brief and identify sponsors and mentors from across Wincanton to guide the applicants through the process.

Through W2 Labs, we work with disruptors from around the world. Our main aim is to look at challenges in new and innovative ways, and we need creative thinkers to help us do this.

Working with global innovation specialist, L Marks, we scour the globe for the best and brightest minds with a tried and tested innovative approach to problem solving. 

In 2022, we scouted 698 companies and received 89 applications from nine different countries.

Our annual pitch day is a highlight in the Wincanton calendar. We invite the applicants with the most compelling approaches to each theme to present their proposals in front of a live and virtual audience. More than 30 people from across Wincanton are involved in the programme and as many as possible attend the pitch day.

Of the 89 applicants in 2022, we invited 15 to attend our pitch day and share their vision as it related to one of our key themes. 

Each applicant receives pitch coaching from trained actors before giving a five minute presentation followed by a five minute Q&A, where the experts are invited to interrogate the concept.

Following pitch day, a handful of successful applicants are paired with Wincanton and external business mentors to pilot their concept with the Wincanton business. We want to see how the ideas work in the real world, applying them to a customer account and gathering data to best understand the impact they’re having.

This 10-week proof of concept exercise includes meetings and visits to make sure it’s collaborative and interactive. It tests everything, from the relationships between the applicants and Wincanton to the agility of the concept and the potential for scale.

At the end of the 10 week pilot, we bring our applicants back for a demo day at Wincanton’s Innovation Centre. The applicants and their mentors share the results of the pilot, identifying what they have learned, the success they have achieved, the challenges they faced and the potential for their innovation to transform part of the Wincanton business.

After the demo day we enter a “test and learn” phase, where we work more closely with the successful applicants to further refine the approach before deployment across the group. We aim to partner with at least one of the successful applicants for each of our three themes.

Case studies

With five successful cohorts now complete, we are able to share the difference W2 Labs is making to the Wincanton business and our customers.


Flexibility can make or break a business. Being able to adapt resources to meet peak demand and downsize when things are quieter helps keep income and expenditure closely aligned.

Wincanton partnered with StoreKat to create OneVASTWarehouse – a digital database matching customers who needed warehouse space with customers who had some to spare. Based on StoreKat’s previous innovation – a smaller scale app that enabled individuals to use available attic space in other people’s homes, OneVASTWarehouse. 

Companies can list space for free – no matter how large or small, short or long-term. Anyone looking for storage space can search by location, space size, storage duration and required facilities before being put in direct contact with the warehouse of their choice.  Further to this, customers can purchase additional wraparound services, such as pick-and-pack.

Reimagining recruitment with ThriveMap

One of our 2021 themes was “people”. We were looking for disruptive businesses that would help us change the way we recruit and retain talent.

ThriveMap applied for the programme with an innovative approach to the recruitment process. Typically, candidates would drop out due to the lengthy recruitment process. Of those that made it to day one, many would leave when they experience a significant difference between their expectations of the role and the reality.

ThriveMap created bespoke “pre-hire” assessments that would take candidates through a digital “day in the life” of the job, giving them a realistic preview of their role while Wincanton benefitted from the ability to assess how the candidates responded to challenges along with their communication skills and problem-solving abilities. 

Partnering with Soter Analytics to keep colleagues safe from injury

In a business with so many moving parts, one of our biggest risk areas is injury to our people. Wincanton is committed to making sure everyone gets to go home each day as healthy and safe as when they arrive at work.

In 2017, in response to our [what] theme, we partnered with Sotor Analytics to address the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

Through wearable technology, Sotor was able to analyse the way in which individuals perform certain tasks, providing real time feedback on risks and corrections that will help them work more safely and avoid injury, providing personalised training plans through an app.

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W2 Cohorts

Bringing new ideas and products to tackle industry challenges and deliver truly innovative supply chain solutions.

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W2 Partner network

Working with established supply partners and institutions to translate digital ideas with scale.

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W2 Innovation Centre

Nurturing Wincanton colleagues with creative ideas and talent.

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