Microsoft has announced its newest European startup accelerator program, in a move that helps tie software startups to its Azure services.

The Microsoft Accelerator program looks to equip startups with tools to help them develop their product and grow their organisation. Microsoft gives the companies networking opportunities, funding, access to equipment, training and management in order to achieve this.

The program runs in seven countries, and over the years has helped 647 startups gain more than $3 billion (approx. £2.32 billion) in funding. Lately the program has seen a shift to focusing on early-stage companies who want to build up every aspect of its business rather than just developing its product.

MD at Microsoft for Startups, Iskender Dirik, said: ‘We are more than happy that we were able to position our new program in the startup and VC scene and attract fantastic, mature tech companies with an average funding of $7 million per company.’

As part of the four-month program that chosen startups enrol on when chosen by Microsoft, companies will receive $500,000 in Microsoft Azure credits. The offer of Azure credits comes at the same time as rival cloud companies such as Alphabet and Oracle are carrying out similar startup accelerator programs.

The choice of firms selected by Microsoft represents some of the shifts and developments in the world of tech at the moment. According to Microsoft, this year has seen ‘a particular emphasis on deep tech companies with a focus on data, rooted in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Mixed Reality (MR), and block chain.’

Microsoft’s choices include LeanIX, whose Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application intends to help companies make better decisions on how to optimize their IT architecture. The service is already used by brands such as Adidas, DHL and Merck.

AI software vendor Tellmeplus will be taking part in the program this year. The French company uses AI research and applies it to predictive analytics, using the latest advances in big data and machine learning to provide automated embedded AI.

Tech startups have recently been attracting attention from unexpected quarters, with NBA superstar Kevin Durant investing in cloud data management firm Rubrik.