Amazon is creating a $1 billion venture investment program called the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF) to spur and support innovation in customer fulfillment, logistics, and the supply chain. As customers increasingly shop online and look for even faster delivery, Amazon continues to invent new ways to raise the bar on customer and employee experience while working with other companies focused on those fields.
Amazon has invested and innovated substantially over the last two decades in next-generation technology in its operations. This new fund is one of the ways Amazon continues to invest, along with many other initiatives, such as the MARS and re:MARS conferences that Amazon hosts every year. The conferences bring together innovative minds in machine learning, automation, robotics, and space to share new ideas across these rapidly advancing domains.
"We see an opportunity to look beyond our own experience and empower companies that are developing emerging technologies in customer fulfillment operations, logistics, and the supply chain," said Alex Ceballos Encarnacion, Amazon's vice president of worldwide corporate development. "We know there are companies out there that share our curiosity and excitement to invent. Whether our investment helps them grow or leads them to work with Amazon, or both, we're excited to help advance these technologies as online shopping becomes even more important to people who are looking for more convenience and time savings."
The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund will invest in companies that imagine solutions that incrementally increase delivery speed and further improve the experience of employees working in the warehousing and logistics fields. "These industries are inherently complex," said Ceballos. "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."
Amazon has a history of investing in technologies within its operations that support employees and customers, like artificial intelligence, robotics, and other cutting-edge inventions. Some past improvements include robotic arms that perform repetitive tasks and new products in autonomous movement that can help transport larger items.
The AIIF will focus on companies of all stages, from early-stage startups to more established companies that are developing innovative technologies to help advance and improve key areas in fulfillment operations, logistics, and supply chain management, such as safety. These could include companies working in the areas of robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, and other emerging technologies.
"Investing in companies that are driving the next generation of industrial innovation can have an impact across communities—globally, regionally, and locally," said Bob O'Donnell, founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research. "It's great to see Amazon make these investments in companies in the U.S. and around the world, as historically, ongoing investment in innovation has shown to have a positive economic impact."
Ceballos said that's the goal. "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," said Ceballos.
The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund's first round of investments is focused on wearable technology that enhances safety in fulfillment buildings and robotics designed to complement and coexist with people's lives. The companies whose innovations were chosen include:
Modjoul: Founded in 2016 and based in Greenville, South Carolina, Modjoul is developing wearable safety technology that enables real-time, personalized alerts and recommendations aimed at reducing injuries, most notably musculoskeletal issues.
Vimaan: Founded in 2017 and based in Santa Clara, California, Vimaan is developing computer vision and artificial intelligence solutions engineered to improve inventory management.
Agility Robotics: Founded in 2015 and based in Corvallis, Oregon, Agility Robotics is developing a bipedal walking robot, Digit, that addresses the mobility limitations of traditional robots so that machines can assist people wherever they are.
BionicHIVE: Founded in 2014 and based in Israel, BionicHIVE is developing an autonomous robotic solution that can adapt to existing shelving racks and boxes in warehouses and is capable of floor-to-ceiling functionality.
Mantis Robotics: Founded in 2020 and based in San Francisco, Mantis Robotics is developing a tactile robotic arm that uses sensor technology to cohesively work alongside people.