The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund is focused on investing in companies that are developing technology 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 company 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.
Initial start-ups backed by the Amazon Industrial Innovation 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 Amazon’s most common warehouse injuries, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has previously said the company 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.
Amazon in 2012 acquired a company called 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.