DeFINE Mentoring Programme

Designed for fashion-tech start-ups and SMEs

Apply for Mentoring Support

The DeFINE Mentoring Programme is focused on helping start-ups and SMEs develop innovative ideas and improve innovation management practices.

We provide 80 hours of mentoring support to selected businesses, guide through the innovation process. By the end of the mentoring, businesses should have a prototype or proof of concept of a new product, process or new business model.

A first round of selection of start-ups has been conducted in 2019. A second round in september 2020. Discover them on the dedicated pages.

Round 2 Applications is closed
Round 2 Applications is closed
OPEN from 4 March to 4 June 2020

What is involved in the mentoring programme?

The Bespoke Mentoring Programme will deliver to 25 businesses technical and strategic support in order to facilitate and scale-up innovations in term of products/services, processes, and market approaches within the Fashion-Tech field. Mentorship aims to boost innovation through knowledge transfer and cross-sectoral collaboration. Mentors will be selected from the consortium partners which are European leading fashion and design academic institutions, Business Support Organizations and industry specialist networks. Additional relevant support from external sources will be provided, when required.

Breakdown of support

24 hours

Support from a Lead Supervisor

General direction on the development and innovation process
Monitoring performance ensuring proper due diligence
Initial assessment of the start-up’s/SMEs’ needs
Tracking progress
Ensuring additional support if required

40 hours

Bespoke Technical Mentoring

Technical and scientific support to research
Product development
Prototyping and testing
Product-Service System Innovation

8 hours

Business management support

Tailored made business support
IP Mentoring, including half an hour of private legal consultancy with a leading legal firm
Technology transfer and exploitation

8 hours

Investment readiness support

Investment strategies
Identifying the right type of finance and getting investment ready
Preparing to professionally pitch to equity investors at designated investment forums

The selected start-ups and SMEs will have the chance to access relevant facilities and physical spaces (labs and technical resources, equipment, infrastructure, and tools) made available by four leading Fashion, Technology and Design institutions members of the DeFINE Consortium e.g. London College of Fashion’s Digital Learning Labs, CyRIC Business Innovation Centre and Gravity Incubator, CEEI-Burgos Business Incubator, Politecnico LAB-Photo and LAB-Moda Polifactory, FashionInk Smart Textile Prototype Factory, Institut Français de la Mode incubators and Paris La Fabrique Fablab.

In addition to one-to-one mentoring, selected businesses will be able to access the online resources (as webinars and toolkits) to facilitate their business development.

Further benefits are included within the DeFINE Mentoring Programme. The results of the start-ups/SMEs supported by the project will be showcased at industry events and promoted through the online platform and the channels of the partners. Investments forums will be organized for selected Fashion-Tech businesses to pitch their ideas. Mentees will also be linked with a network of accelerators and incubators who can support them also after having taken part into the Bespoke Mentoring Programme.

What you need to know.

Places on the Bespoke Mentoring Programme will be offered only to registered businesses.

However if you are in the process of being registered you may attend a Bootcamp, submit an Expression of Interest and/or an application for the Bespoke Mentoring Programme. All selected businesses will have to be registered before they can get any support. They will have to provide dated registration certificate by their local business authorities.

Eligible businesses can be:

  • Start-ups
  • Micro enterprises or small businesses with a maximum staff of 50 and turnover of € 10 million.

All will have to certify their ownership of any Intellectual property involved.
Exclusion criteria linked to the EU contracts are listed further below.

The whole Programme is open to candidates from all COSME countries, i.e. EU 28 + Montenegro, FYROM, Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Moldavia, Armenia, Iceland.

Projects will be submitted for evaluation to a Selection Committee including DeFINE’s Advisory Board Members.

Please note, the application form is part one of a two-stage process. Eligible applicants will also be required to share a presentation using a power point template we will provide. Once you have submitted your application, a member of our team will review it and contact you to let you know whether you are eligible. If so, we will share the presentation template which will need to be completed by 10th June.

The selection process will be anticipated by a review process, also considering the mentoring capacity of the consortium members with respect to the specific project/needs characterising each SMEs and start-up, and to clarify any details necessary with the applicants. The Selection Committee will assess the chances of project success (during and after Programme) and its exemplarity for the whole European fashion-tech industry. Each member will evaluate each project according to the following criteria, with similar weight for each criterion.

  • Market potential (real need to satisfy, existing demand, no competitive alternative)
  • Scalability and investment potential
  • Human resources potential (competencies, ambition, reliability, vision, dedicated team)
  • Power of exemplarity for the European fashion, tech and fashion-tech communities at large
  • Market research and knowledge achieved (at least partly).

Selections will be announced on July 15th, 2020. Once the selections have been made all applicants will receive notification of their status and the rejected applicants will be given some feed-back along with possible advice.

Different types of innovation projects will be eligible, below are examples of projects ideas that are considered fashion-tech, not limited to:

Products and services

  • Exploring technologies and the IoT paradigm to enable the fashion and lifestyle objects to reconfigure themselves according to consumers’ needs and context’s characteristics.
  • Developing tools to test prototypes in the upstream phases of the supply chain (research and concept development), including through digital social platforms.
  • Implementing existing/ developing new retail devices (app, protocol systems, etc.) to support cross-channeling and cross borders distributions


  • Exploring design processes and experimenting with digital components, fabrication tools and processes to promote technological innovation, consumer and the social need economy.
  • Linking materials and components to craft and advanced manufacturing to enable “reframed” creative and capacity in production processes.
  • Developing service oriented by the specific characteristics of retailing channels and markets for both home and EU markets.

Market approaches/business models

  • Innovating business models and developing tools to innovate the downstream supply chain including buying and retail management.
  • Developing tools to test prototypes in the downstream phases of the supply chain (product test and beta versions) through digital social platforms, and new concept retailing.
  • Implementing retail and communication platforms to develop a reframed cross-channel strategy for deepening EU and export markets.

Appendix 1: General Exclusion criteria as per European Commission rules

The project will select businesses according to the exclusion criteria as for the partners:

  • It is not bankrupt or being wound up, is not having its affairs administered by the courts, has not entered into an arrangement with creditors, has not suspended business activities, is not the subject of proceedings concerning those matters, or is not in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for in national legislation or regulations;
  • It (or persons having powers of representation, decision making or control over it) have not been convicted of an offence concerning their professional conduct by a judgment of a competent authority of a Member State which has the force of res judicata;
  • It has not been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the Commission can justify;
  • It is in compliance with its obligations relating to the payment of social security contributions and the payment of taxes, in accordance with the legal provisions of the country in which it is established and with those of the country of the authorizing officer responsible and those of the country where the action is to be performed;
  • It (or persons having powers of representation, decision making or control over it) have not been the subject of a judgment which has the force of res judicata for fraud, corruption, involvement in a criminal organization or any other illegal activity, where such illegal activity is detrimental to the EU’s financial interests; − is not currently subject to an administrative penalty under Article 131(5) of Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 966/2012;
  • It is not subject to a conflict of interest in connection with the grant;
  • It will inform the Contractor, without delay, of any situation considered a conflict of interests or which could give rise to a conflict of interests;
  • It has not granted and will not grant, has not sought and will not seek, has not attempted and will not attempt to obtain, and has not accepted and will not accept any advantage, financial or in kind, to or from any party whatsoever, where such advantage constitutes an illegal practice or involves corruption, either directly or indirectly, inasmuch as it is an incentive or reward relating to the award of the grant.

Will I have to sign a contract?

Once selected, start-ups/SMEs will be asked to sign an agreement outlining the terms and conditions of their involvement. This contract will be signed between each participant selected for the Mentoring Programme and DeFINE consortium partner providing the mentoring. Contextually, all mentors and mentees will sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. It is to be noted that the contract will stipulate that participants will have to participate and complete the entire Mentoring Programme unless they may be required to refund DeFINE Programme with the costs incurred through the mentoring hours received.

Start-ups/SMEs will then have to take part in the online induction process on the September, 2020 that will kick off the Mentoring Programme activities. At this stage, a calendar will be individually agreed with their personal mentor.

1st Round Selected Businesses

Check out the 11 start-ups and SMEs currently engaged in the DeFINE Mentoring Programme!

Evaluation Form

Download the Evaluation Form that will be used by the Selection Committee to assess and comment applications.


Get in touch with the DeFINE Team!

If you have any further questions please email us at