IBM has launched a global entrepreneur initiative aimed at helping fledgling startups devoted to putting new technologies to work for traditional business or government operations.
The programme is intended to buoy young technology firms that have been all but abandoned by venture capitalists hungry for quick returns on investments instead of waiting the decade or longer it typically takes startups to mature.
"In the climate we have been in since 2008 it is clear there is a bit of a void in terms of nurturing very young companies," said IBM Managing Director of Venture Capital Group Claudia Fan Munce. "Our Smarter Planet agenda calls for that pipeline to be bigger while right now it is getting pretty small if not a complete gap."
The IBM Smarter Planet strategy calls for using digital age technologies to gather and analyse data to make governments, healthcare centres, utilities and other enterprise computer operations more efficient. "Smarter planet is all about the fact that today you can capture a lot more data than was available before and transform that into intelligence you can do business with," Munce said.
IBM will provide selected startups with support such as computer software, feedback from in-house researchers, mentoring, and access to a social network of entrepreneurs and IT professionals worldwide.
Startups that get IBM's seal of approval will also be introduced to venture capitalists searching for promising technology firms, said Munce.
Entrepreneurs worldwide are invited to apply, with IBM choosing startups that the United States technology powerhouse thinks are "strategically relevant to the market we serve".
The startups must be privately held and less than three years old.
While Silicon Valley venture capitalists tend to crave internet firms, IBM said it will be looking for startups using technology to improve performance of key industries from telecommunications and energy to healthcare and government. Startups the IBM worked with during a pilot programme included Ireland-based Treemetrics that uses satellite pictures and 3D imaging to determine when forests are in prime condition to be harvested for lumber.