The key role of Auld Reekie for Amazon - comment

Amazon’s Development Centre in Scotland (ADCS) we’re responsible for inventing software that brings new levels of choice and convenience to millions of customers around the world.
Edinburgh 'continues to be the perfect location for us,' says Smith. Picture: contributed.Edinburgh 'continues to be the perfect location for us,' says Smith. Picture: contributed.
Edinburgh 'continues to be the perfect location for us,' says Smith. Picture: contributed.

Our Edinburgh hub was set up in 2004, two years before I joined, and was Amazon’s first research and development site outside the US. Before we moved to Edinburgh’s Waverley Gate building, our offices were basic. It was very different from the tech offices of today, yet while our furnishing has changed, our focus on innovation is the same.

The way we approach invention is to start with the customer and work backwards. As we build new software, we see how customers engage with it, and we constantly try new ideas to give them a better experience. For example, the Edinburgh team recently reinvented the way we produce personalised shopping recommendations.

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With help from the first Amazon Scholar in Europe, a University of Edinburgh academic who spends the equivalent of one day a week with us, we applied the latest machine learning to the challenge. This new tech lets us find and use complex aggregated patterns in shopping behaviour that help customers find and discover more new and exciting products than ever before.

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The Big Interview: Amazon's Development Centre Scotland MD Graeme Smith

Amazon’s customers are diverse, and having a global team is one of the best ways for us to understand their needs and serve those customers well. It’s why Edinburgh continues to be the perfect location for us. The creative environment, high quality of living, skilled international workforce and excellent universities are world-renowned.

The University of Edinburgh, for example, is a leader in computer science, and we work closely with them. Our scientists help to supervise its masters students, our female software engineers mentor students, and we provide a bursary to two students a year through Amazon Future Engineer.

We’ve worked with organisations to create a comprehensive programme to enable more children and young people, primarily from lower-income communities, to try computer science and feel inspired.

The UK-wide childhood-to-career scheme includes free robotics workshops for primary school children, supporting the recruitment and training of 50 secondary school computer science teachers and 200 Careers Leaders in partnership with Teach First, Amazon Future Engineer bursaries for undergraduates and apprenticeships for school leavers.

We continue to grow in Edinburgh and are looking right now for software development engineers, technical programme managers and machine-learning scientists, with plans to double our capacity for high-quality research and development jobs this year.

The possibilities to better serve customers are limitless – and we’re excited to keep pushing the frontiers in Edinburgh for the next 15 years.

Graeme Smith, MD, ADCS

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