A £1 million government competition to find innovative Internet of Things (IoT) start-ups has received the backing of large brand names like EE, John Lewis, Unilever and Seedcamp.

The competition  first announced by prime minister David Cameron in March and being run by Tech City UK, the Technology Strategy Board and Cambridge Wireless  began accepting applications yesterday, the first day of London Tech Week.

The brands have pledged to offer winning start-ups support, mentorship, routes to market and grant funding to accelerate their business ideas.

Research analysts Gartner predict there will be nearly 26 billion physical devices transmitting data to each other via the internet by 2020 and the government is keen to tap into this new market. 

“The Internet of Things is a transformative development, representing a major growth area and economic opportunity,” said Tech City UK CEO Gerard Grech.

“It’s vital that we create the right conditions to enable digital businesses to pioneer in the internet of things (IoT).”

The £1 million prize pot will be divided between the winning companies who will also receive retail and marketing space within selected EE stores, business support and mentoring from John Lewis, office space from Red Gate and additional funding from Unilever and Seedcamp. 

A Tech City UK spokesperson said between 10 to 15 companies will get between £50,000 and £150,000 each.

Soraya Jones, CEO of Cambridge Wireless, said: “UK wireless innovation among SMEs is at its peak. We have seen a surge of promising business, academic and amateur entrepreneurs driving technology innovation forward, the agile nature of SMEs allow them to react to market needs, with less restrictions that we see in the larger corporations in bringing their ideas to market.”

Seedcamp partner Reshma Sohoni said: "We have seen first-hand the explosive interest in IoT by entrepreneurs and we have to date invested in companies like Teddy the Guardian, Krack,and Winnow Solutions.”

The competition is open to all UK registered companies that have a “working connection with either the London or Cambridge tech clusters”.

The closing date for submissions is 3 September 2014. Details for applications and further information can be found here.