Amazon is to open a new research and development (R&D) centre in Manchester next year and expand other offices, as it takes on 1,000 new highly skilled staff.
The new Manchester office will house at least 600 R&D employees, and the retail giant will also expand its premises in Edinburgh and Cambridge.
The Edinburgh office, which was Amazon’s first development site outside North America, will create space for 250 more roles, and the revamped Cambridge site will take on 180 extra staff to work on developing Amazon’s Alexa, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and machine learning capabilities.
Doug Gurr, UK country manager for Amazon, said innovation is an important strategy for the firm. “We do a lot of innovation – it’s one of our core operational principles,” he said. “We love to invent – our people love to invent for our customers.
“We invent on behalf of the customers, and the beauty of inventing on behalf of the customer is that they are never satisfied.”
Gurr said part of Amazon’s mission statement is to “keep inventing” the next thing that a customer will need, even if the customer doesn’t know what that is yet.
But this can only be done through “investing in great people”, he added. “It comes down to one thing and one thing only, and that’s having great people.”
The new highly-skilled employees at the company’s Manchester office will work on projects that will make the Amazon experience better for customers, including software development, machine learning and R&D, said Gurr.
The 250 new roles in Edinburgh will support existing staff, such as software engineers, machine-learning scientists and user-experience designers who work on new advertising technology and personalised shopping recommendations.
Meanwhile, the 180 new roles at Cambridge will support those already on site working on Amazon Devices, Amazon Alexa products, AWS, machine learning, retail systems and the future Prime Air service, which will involve the secure delivery of products by drone.
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Amazon has several development centres, 17 fulfilment centres and 40 delivery stations across the UK, and has invested more than £9.3bn in its UK operations since 2010.
Gurr said the firm is also investing Europe-wide, with 25 development centres across the continent working on technologies such as payments, translation, transportation and Prime Air.
But the company’s customers are not only those who buy goods through Amazon.com – Gurr pointed out that about 990,000 European businesses receive support from Amazon in the form of tools and services, such as AWS.
Because of Amazon, even small businesses can grow and reach customers worldwide, he said, which “would have been unimaginable a decade ago”.
But Gurr added: “Of course, to really take advantage, to really get to the next million or even beyond that, you have to have the right skills.”
Gurr said Amazon is lucky to have access to “amazing talent”, but he said the pace of change in the coming years will be much faster than in the 20 years the firm has been operating in Europe, as customers’ needs continue to evolve.
As customers change, retailers are also being forced to change, he said, and Amazon strives to push the boundaries of retail, forcing others to follow suit.
“Everything we look at tells us there is more to come than we have seen already,” said Gurr. “It really still is day one.”
Amazon expects to have about 27,500 employees in the UK by the end of next year, including more than 6,500 roles in its AWS and R&D divisions.
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