Amazon launches $1 billion fund to invest in warehouse technologies

Robots transport goods to the employees in the warehouse of a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.

Rolf Vennenbernd | dpa | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Amazon is launching a $1 billion fund that will back companies “of all stages” building supply chain, fulfillment and logistics technologies, the company announced Thursday.

The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund will focus on new technologies that will “increase delivery speed and further improve the experience” of warehouse and logistics employees, Alex Ceballos Encarnacion, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide corporate development, wrote in a blog post.

The fund is one subset of Amazon’s growing investment activity. The e-commerce giant in 2020 launched a $2 billion fund to invest in climate technologies, and it operates the Alexa Fund, which has made investments in speech-recognition technology, among other areas.

Start-ups backed by the new fund include Modjoul, a company developing wearable safety technology that issues alerts and recommendations aimed at reducing injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders, or strains and sprains.

MSDs are some of the company’s most common warehouse injuries, and founder Jeff Bezos has previously said Amazon needs to develop solutions to reduce their prevalence among new employees. Amazon has pledged to become “Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” following increased pressure from lawmakers, advocacy groups and its own employees over how it treats its warehouse workers.

Three other companies included in the first round of investments are developing robotics “designed to complement and coexist with people’s lives,” Amazon said.

Ten years ago, the company acquired Kiva Systems, which created wheeled robots for warehouses. Since then, Amazon has launched a number of robotic fulfillment centers with the aim of speeding up delivery of products to consumers. Last year, it shared details of four warehouse robots it’s testing to reduce strenuous movements for workers.

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