By Graeme Smith, Managing Director, Amazon Development Centre Scotland

SCOTLAND is known as a nation of inventors. In recent years, Scotland’s technology companies have seen success on a global scale and recent developments in technology are creating huge opportunities. Advances in cloud computing, hardware and algorithms have made it possible to analyse and make sense of data in ways that simply would not have been practical a few years ago. By applying “machine learning” to big data, advances are being made in almost every domain, from personalised product recommendations to drug discovery in healthcare and fraud detection in financial services. The opportunities are significant and Scotland is well placed to take a leading position.

It is no coincidence that 12 years ago, Amazon chose Edinburgh for its first Development Centre outside North America. Today, our scientists, engineers and designers are harnessing the latest technology to create inventions that help hundreds of millions of customers all over the world. We thrive in Scotland’s capital because of the talent here and because great technologists from all over the world want to come and live in Edinburgh. The University of Edinburgh is an important partner for us and other technology companies in Scotland. Its School of Informatics produces more world-leading and internationally excellent research in computer science and informatics than any other university in the UK. In turn, our support for the university includes the Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary, through which we attract, mentor and fund more women into tech careers. We are keen to improve gender diversity in the technology sector and so we are also proud to sponsor the inaugural Scotland Women in Technology Awards, supported by The Herald.

Of course, we are nurturing talent in Scotland because it makes business sense. From Edinburgh, our team develop technology allowing UK small businesses to export more effortlessly, so they can reach hundreds of millions of customers in their own language and in their own currency around the world. Through innovation developed right here in Scotland, urban and rural businesses can be local, but sell internationally.

Our work presents unique challenges for scientists, engineers and designers. We are working with hundreds of millions of items and hundreds of millions of customers. The only way you can work with such large amounts of data is to automate and so we use techniques such as natural language processing, machine learning and deep learning at scale to personalise the experience for customers and enable them to find, buy and discover whatever they want.

Our innovative work in Edinburgh similarly extends to our UK customer service centre, also based at our offices in Waverley Gate. As well as being the hub for UK customer service, the site is an “incubator” for new services, which are tested here before being rolled out to other countries. Edinburgh is key to Amazon’s operations, not just in the UK, but worldwide. We are proud to call it home and be part of the city’s exciting transformation as a world-leading technology centre.

As a nation, one of our key challenges is to ensure we can grow the talent pool and retain this talent. We have all the right ingredients. We have world-class universities, people want to come from all around the world to live and work here and we have a growing ecosystem of technology companies, small and large, to offer opportunities. If we can maintain and develop these conditions for success, there is no doubt that Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, can continue to grow as a global leader in technology.