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Scottish businesses must utilise innovation culture to build companies of scale

Amazon’s Graeme Smith explains why the innovation culture in Scotland makes Edinburgh one of the best cities in the world to target the digital economy.
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Amazon’s Graeme Smith explains why the innovation culture in Scotland makes Edinburgh one of the best cities in the world to target the digital economy.

Amazon Academy Edinburgh is a free one-day event which will feature keynote presentations and workshops from experts and entrepreneurs alike to give practical support and guidance for SMEs wanting to grow businesses online.

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We are looking forward to bringing the Amazon Academy to Scotland for the first time to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 23 May. The event is being run in conjunction with renowned small business network Enterprise Nation, which provides support for more than 70,000 SMEs across the UK.

Scotland is at the heart of Amazon’s business in the UK. Our very first “Development Centre” outside the US opened in Edinburgh 13 years ago, and today has teams of innovators working on new products and services to support our mission to constantly improve the customer experience and help small business owners maximise their success.

Edinburgh is an ideal location for Amazon to invest because of the fantastic innovation culture in Scotland and the world-class university here. Around the city, we see constant reminders of the proud heritage we hope to build on. From our office, we can see David Hume’s mausoleum. Hume was one of the fathers of empiricism in the Scottish enlightenment and Amazon loves experimentation, so it’s a fantastic reminder of what drives us.

Since we opened in Edinburgh, our Scottish investments have expanded to include a customer service centre, two fulfilment centres, three delivery stations and a Prime Now site in Glasgow. We now have over 2,500 employees across Scotland.

This investment and innovation culture has also helped underpin the growth of lots of small businesses across Scotland. More than 370,000 small businesses, entrepreneurs and authors use our online services including Amazon Marketplace, Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon Web Services to help them make a living.

All of this innovation culture makes Edinburgh an ideal place for us to host our first Amazon Academy event in Scotland. We’re in this city because of the talent here. The University of Edinburgh produces more world-leading and internationally excellent research in computer science and informatics than any other university in the UK. We’re actively supporting academia with programmes like our Women in Innovation Bursary programme, aimed at increasing the number of young women in STEM careers through financial support and mentoring.

We are proud to have the University of Edinburgh as a partner in this programme, and we are proud of what local talent is creating for our customers. For example, these innovators are creating software that is used by hundreds of millions of customers all over the world. They are also inventing new technology to personalise the customer experience to help customers discover more of what they want and boost sales for the thousands of businesses selling products on Amazon.

The size of Amazon’s catalogue is uniquely challenging. We’re working with hundreds of millions of items, with product information in many different natural languages. The only way you can work with such large amounts of data is to automate and so we’re using techniques such as natural language processing and machine learning at massive scale to constantly improve the data that we hold about our products. We use this technology to make product recommendations to customers on our website and mobile app and discover the products and digital entertainment they’ll love.

Our work in Edinburgh is just a small part of what Amazon is doing to help small businesses. By coming along to the Amazon Academy, local SMEs can explore the potential of the digital economy.

The internet is a great leveller between big and small businesses. Anyone with a laptop, an internet connection and a great idea can compete with the biggest companies, and we at Amazon want to help them achieve that. Just last year, UK sellers on the Amazon Marketplace exported £1.8bn worth of goods. Amazon puts business owners in touch with customers all over the world, in their own language and in their own currency; and we are able to help businesses with customer services and logistics, leaving each with more time to focus on developing on great ideas.

The potential for SMEs in the digital economy is huge and there’s never been a better time for Scottish businesses to take the next step and not just achieve their ambitions but exceed them.

I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to address some of our country’s most exciting and innovative business leaders and entrepreneurial talent at the upcoming Amazon Academy on the 23 May. Whether they are just starting out or are well established in their industry, business owners and entrepreneurs will have an engaging and inspiring experience on the day, and I looking forward to welcoming everyone to the EICC.

Register here and attend the Edinburgh Amazon Academy event on 23 May for free.

Graeme Smith is managing director at the Edinburgh Amazon Development Centre.

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