Amazon is planning to open a new 60,000 square foot technology development center in Cambridge, U.K., this fall that will be capable of housing more than 400 employees working on Amazon’s Kindle, Fire and Echo devices, as well as its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a Thursday press release.
Some of that work now takes place at a similar Amazon facility in Castle Hill about 110 miles west of Cambridge, but after the new facility opens, the Castle Hill location will be used primarily for research and development for Prime Air drone delivery efforts, Amazon said.
Amazon also disclosed that it has invested £6.4 billion (more than $8 billion) in operations and jobs in the U.K. since 2010. It plans to create 5,000 new permanent roles across the U.K. this year, bringing its full time workforce to 24,000.
The recently-announced Echo Look will be one of the Amazon devices to be worked on at the new facility. The Kindle, Fire tablet, Fire TV Stick, Echo and Echo Dot will be some of the others, and of course, good old Alexa will have a major presence. Amazon said it will have more than 1,500 people in innovation-related jobs in the U.K. by the end of this year, including machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modelers, speech scientists and software engineers.
The opening of this center, while still some months away, suggests we have only seen the beginning of Amazon's innovations around home-grown solutions like Alexa. In particular, as the e-commerce giant aims to hire more machine learning experts, it is showing that it is not content to take a back seat to other companies as artificial intelligence and machine learning come to hold an ever larger position of importance to retailers and consumers.
The U.K. already has played a significant role in Amazon’s ongoing Prime Air developments. The company moved some work on its drone delivery efforts to the U.K. last year after it became clear that U.S. regulators were not moving very quickly to develop drone delivery regulations in the U.S. Amazon’s first commercial drone delivery came near the company's Cambridge fulfillment center last winter.
The announcement also comes as Amazon has recently entered more overseas markets with its devices. The Fire TV Stick, for example, recently became available in several new countries.