MWC [Barcelona] Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has boosted its partnership with two Chinese organisations in a bid to find the best Internet of Things (IoT) startups around the world. 

The company has shared some of its internal innovations with telecoms firm China Unicom and Tsinghua Technology and Innovation (THTI) since June 2014, the technological innovation platform of Tsinghua University. Today it announced it will now start looking for startups with them too. 

© iStock/Joe Biafore
© iStock/Joe Biafore

Telefónica hopes the initiative, being led by the company's "Open Future" department, will help it to identify the most promising startups in China, while also helping China Unicom and THTI to identify innovative companies in Europe and Latin America. 

The trio have pledged to open three newly-created coworking spaces in Madrid, Beijing and Shanghai, for companies they decide to back. 

Telefónica COO José María Álvarez-Pallete made the announcement at the Four Years From Now (4YFN) conference, which runs parallel to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and is aimed at the international entrepreneur ecosystem.

The alliance said it will select and support 10 projects by giving them access to the resources and scale of Telefónica, China Unicom and THTI. 

Selected startups will receive a customised programme according to the degree of maturity and growth potential, said Telefónica. 

The firm added that the programme will include office space, pilots in the R&D departments of the companies, access to sources of investment and networking opportunities.

Speaking at MWC in Barcelona, Álvarez-Pallete said: "We have created a platform of innovation around Telefónica that allows us to detect ideas and new trends."

He added: "With the involvement of  China Unicom and THTI, this is one of the most significant agreements Telefónica Open Future has signed at an international level because it brings the Chinese entrepreneurship ecosystem closer to those of Europe and Latin America.

“With this alliance, we will offer startups in these three regions the support they need to grow, think differently and take their business to new heights."

Telefónica Open Future, which includes Wayra, Amérigo, Telefónica Ventures and other company partners, already has a portfolio of more than 500 companies and €300 million under management.