Amazon partners with University of Washington for new science hub

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is founding a new science hub with the University of Washington (Photo credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington)

Amazon is expanding its focus on robotics innovation.

The e-tail giant is founding the UW-Amazon Science Hub with the University of Washington (UW). In support of the collaboration, Amazon will fund collaborative research, education, and outreach programs at the university.

At the outset, Amazon funding will support programs including fellowships that will be awarded annually to PhD students enrolled in the UW College of Engineering; research projects led by one or more UW faculty members in collaboration with postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and research staff; and support for collaborative research events and activities that accelerate artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and engineering research.

Amazon will seek to make the hub’s activities accessible in the Seattle metro area, such as by hosting research symposia that are open to other academic institutions and the public.

The hub, the scope of which will expand in the future, will launch with an initial focus on robotics, marked by a collaboration between Amazon Robotics AI and the College of Engineering. Amazon and the University of Washington have worked together since the 1990s, leveraging their proximity to one another.

Amazon has provided learning opportunities for students through project funds and fellowships, support for faculty through professorships and research funding, and new spaces for learning and collaboration through capital support. In addition, dozens of Amazon professionals have served in volunteer roles at the UW over the years, as advisors on UW boards and committees.

In December 2021, Amazon announced three interrelated grants to support start-up of new bachelor of science in computer science programs at community and technical colleges in Seattle and across Washington. The grants — $1 million each — go to Seattle Colleges Foundation, the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program. Amazon’s investment in the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program will support students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in STEM and health care fields.

Amazon has been making investments in robotics innovation hubs across the country. In October 2021, the company opened 350,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art site in Westborough, Mass. that includes corporate offices, research and development labs, and manufacturing space. This hub works in tandem with an existing Amazon Robotics facility in North Reading, Mass., and together the two sites serve as the company’s epicenter of robotics innovation. Amazon Robotics expects to create 200 tech and advanced manufacturing jobs at the new facility, including roles in engineering, manufacturing, support and test teams.

“Solving the hardest challenges in science and engineering requires collaboration between bright minds in industry and academia,” said Alicia Boler Davis, senior VP of customer fulfillment at Amazon. “This hub deepens our engagement with a research powerhouse sitting in our backyard, empowering Amazon scientists and UW researchers to work together to both address those challenges and contribute to the scientific community via open research.”

“We are excited to collaborate with Amazon to advance research and learning in the College of Engineering and beyond,” said Ana Marie Cauce, UW president. “The incredible potential for world-changing discovery across disciplines and sectors represents the best of what is possible when academia and industry join forces to accelerate innovation here in the Pacific Northwest, home to both our organizations.”