The town beat off competition from more than 370 applicants to win the status.
They will share a pot of £1.2 million - and benefit from the guidance and support of retail guru Mary Portas and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps.
Members and supporters of Bedford BID, which led the application, gathered on the Town Bridge on Monday, May 28 to celebrate the achievement.
Bedford’s Pilot bid aims to put a ‘buzz’ back into the town centre ‘s vacant shops.
One key aspect is to take one of the empty shops and turn it into a show case, sales and support unit for all the other businesses on the High Street and those who aspire to be part of it.
Large businesses will support and mentor small independent retailers, and a contract of care between landlords and their tenants will be encouraged.
They will also start more imaginative community use of empty properties, building on “we are Bedford” events, which use empty shops as art venues, to create a platform for fledgling businesses and a new pride and ownership of the town centre.
MP Richard Fuller praised the success, saying: “Well done to BedfordBID and the team for putting together a winning entry for the Portas Pilot and being selected as one of the twelve winners in the UK to receive the funding.
“It is another positive piece of news for Bedford and will bring a much needed boost to our town centre. The enthusiasm and vision of the Town Team clearly came across in the application and it is a much deserved success.”