Amazon has announced that it will significantly increase investment in its UK development centre for Prime Air, Amazon devices and Alexa with the opening of a new 5,574 sq m site in Cambridge. The new centre will open this autumn, boosting Amazon’s investment in machine learning and other research and development programmes. New jobs will be created for around 400 machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modellers, speech scientists and software engineers to work on programmes including Prime Air, Amazon devices and Alexa.
Meanwhile Amazon’s existing site in Cambridge will become a research and development centre for Prime Air, where Amazon is working with the Civil Aviation Authority on its drone programme, designed to deliver parcels to customers in 30 minutes or less.
Amazon’s investment in research and development shows the company’s dedication to progress via technology and is welcome news for the UK as Brexit looms. By the end of this year the company expects to have 24,000 employees in its second largest international market.
Investment in R&D is critical for Amazon in its combined role as technology company and retailer. In the tech world Amazon has to compete head to head with the likes of Google and Apple on voice technology and digital assistants. Yet in the retail world there is no other company that is investing in the same way to drive itself forward and this sets Amazon well apart from its peers. It is no coincidence that Cambridge has been chosen as the European centre for this, with its proximity to the world class university and research facilities.
Its unwavering and continued investment in drones as well partnerships with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and other government bodies overseas, is allowing Amazon to push boundaries when it comes to the goal of reducing delivery overheads and significantly speeding up the last mile. It is a long-term investment but one that the company is serious in pursuing. Last July Amazon was given permission to operate beyond line-of-sight flights and in December it began its first UK customer trial of Prime Air drone deliveries – just two users to begin with, but showing that the company is making progress with the technology.
Separately in the UK Amazon has already registered the Amazon Go trademark, indicating that its checkout-free grocery stores are destined to come to Europe once the pilot store in Seattle overcomes its reported technical glitches. The balance of retail and technology will continue to set Amazon apart and we must continue watching this space as the company tries to solve problems that we perhaps don’t even recognise currently that we have.