Amazon to invest $1 billion for new ideas

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Amazon.com says it plans to invest $1 billion in companies developing technologies in logistics, supply chain management and safety, as the retailer seeks to keep an eye on new ideas that might aid its core business.

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The Seattle company last week said it was launching the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, a venture investment program that will back companies “of all stages” working on technology to increase e-commerce delivery speeds and improve the experience of workers in warehousing and logistics. Amazon didn’t specify how many companies it aimed to invest in, or a timeline for the program.

Alex Ceballos Encarnacion, vice president of worldwide corporate development, said in an Amazon blog post that target companies may work with Amazon, or opt to grow on their own. “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,” he said.

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Amazon’s corporate development group has a long track record of buying stakes in other companies, including several Amazon partners. The strategy lets Amazon explore new and emerging technologies, and share in the profits from the growth that can follow a relationship with the gigantic retailer.

In recent years Amazon has sought to link that group’s work publicly to corporate priorities, including investments in voice and speech recognition software through the Alexa Fund, and a $2 billion fund targeting climate technology. The new fund’s focus on employee experiences comes as Amazon takes criticism from politicians and labor unions for its fast pace of work and high injury rates in some logistics facilities.

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