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Amazon announces $1 billion fund to drive warehouse innovation

The ‘Industrial Innovation Fund’ has already invested in five warehouse technology manufacturers

Amazon has announced a new $1 billion venture investment programme which it claims will drive innovation in customer fulfilment, logistics, and the supply chain.

The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF) will support companies, at all stages, in developing next-generation technologies as it looks to improve the employee and customer experience.

So far, the programme has made investments in a selection of manufacturers that specialise on creating warehouse products that range from robotics and automation to data insights – namely Agility Robotics, Bionic Hive, Mantis Robotics, Modjoul, and Vimaan.

Amazon said in its announcement that it's looking for companies to create solutions that'll incrementally increase delivery speed and improve the experience of employees working in warehousing and logistics fields.

“These industries are inherently complex,” said Alex Ceballos Encarnacion, vice president of worldwide corporate development at Amazon. “With our scale, Amazon is committed to investing in companies that will ignite innovation in emerging technologies that can help improve employee experiences and safety while seamlessly coexisting with workforces across the supply chain, logistics, and other industries.”

The firm also highlighted its history of technology investment within its operations, with past improvements including robotic arms for repetitive tasks, as well as new products in autonomous movement to aid with transporting larger items.

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“Even as we have continually improved our operations to better the employee experience and enhanced safety through the development of new workstations with better ergonomics, we hope this fund opens the door for more collaboration.”

Amazon, however, has long attracted criticism for its approach to warehouse safety and treatment of its workers. According to a recent study from the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), Amazon warehouse staff sustained more than 34,000 serious injuries on the job in 2021 - an injury rate of more than double that of all non-Amazon warehouses.

In a final letter to shareholders earlier this month, CEO Jeff Bezos appeared to acknowledge that the company must do more to improve employee safety.

"Despite what we’ve accomplished, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees’ success,” he said. “We have always wanted to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company. We won’t change that. It’s what got us here," he wrote. "But I am committing us to an addition. We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”

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