The company, which owns food and petcare brands including Twix, M&M’s, Whiskas and Pedigree, wants "external thinking" to help with new ideas.
Three times a year, Mars’ marketing and sales teams will come up with briefs around a variety of consumer challenges. This may range from social impact issues to emerging new business models to the future of retail.
Around 50 briefs will be collected, which will then be shortlisted to ten. The most promising ones will be matched with start-ups.
Speaking to Campaign at Cannes, Andrew Clarke, global chief marketing officer at Mars, said: "We need to bring in much more external thinking to provoke us and to get some of the best thinking around how to solve the problems of the future.
"We can’t do it all ourselves – whether it is product innovation or business-model innovation – and therefore increasingly we are looking to partner and collaborate."
Launchpad, which went live in April, has been created in partnership with Mars’ media planning agency, MediaCom, which will act as "matchmaker" for the company.
Clarke added: "The initiative is about putting our dollars into test and learn, where the main goal of the programme is to bring in different ideas that will eventually add value for consumers.
"I’m not expecting every single idea to be a success, but we are hoping to learn as much from the failures as the successes from this initiative. It is about bringing new energy from the outside into the business."
Mars picked up 179 Lions last week, 11 of which were golds. Most awards (111) were for Snickers "Hungerithm" by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.
Other start-up schemes
The Unilever Foundry allows start-ups to apply for briefs from Unilever brands and receive mentoring. Unilever Ventures invests in some of the most promising companies.
By working with Founders Factory, L’Oréal aims to tap into tech companies to help transform the way beauty products are marketed.
Distill Ventures helps brands such as non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip to flourish.