Amazon has launched a new programme that is designed to show small businesses first-hand how it innovates, by taking small businesses inside its state-of-the-art robotics fulfilment centre in Bolton.

The Amazon Innovation Accelerator will combine the expertise of Amazon, Amazon Web Services, and The Growth Company and Made Smarter, which is a government-backed initiative that helps local manufacturing small businesses understand and overcome operational challenges through digital technologies and offers localised advice such as digital transformation workshops and roadmaps.

Through a series of free seminars and one-to-one mentoring from Amazon UK site leads to pinpoint and address the specific challenges they are facing, the programme provides a unique opportunity for small businesses to see in-person how Amazon embraces new technologies and applies innovation to scale up.

“This programme is a fantastic example of industry working to support small businesses and local communities."
Kevin Hollinrake
Small Business Minister

The adoption of robotics across Amazon’s operations has created new roles within the company to support this technology, which tangibly demonstrates the positive impact it can have for employees, the workplace as well as the wider economy.

Against this backdrop, the workshops will feature expert insights and practical advice from Amazon’s own team on topics that are instrumental to boosting business’ growth and productivity prospects, including technology adoption, leadership, and management.

Woman taking part in Amazon Innovation workshop

The programme’s first phase was launched in Greater Manchester due to its existing large and dynamic business community, as well as Amazon’s significant investment and footprint in the region. Later in the year, it will launch in the West Midlands with the potential for further expansion across the UK where Amazon sites are based to inspire and empower even more businesses.

Small Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “This programme is a fantastic example of industry working to support small businesses and local communities.

“This scheme, on top of over £48 million in government backed Start Up Loans issued so far to local businesses, will scale up SMEs in Greater Manchester, supporting jobs and growth in the region.”

Neil Travis, Regional Operations Director at Amazon said: “Amazon has been serving customers in the UK for 25 years and we know how important it is to maintain a start-up mentality and find new ways to innovate.

“The success of small businesses is vital to Amazon, and we want to use the expertise of our teams in Greater Manchester to be a catalyst for growth and productivity for more local businesses and have a positive impact on jobs and the community.”

At the launch of the programme, we spoke to two of the businesses involved to find out how the accelerator will help their businesses.

David Probert, Business Development Director, Seddon Plant & Engineers

David Probert speaking at Amazon Innovation workshop

“I believe that every day is a school day. It’s great to learn from Amazon and see what we can apply to our business.

“It’s a challenge every day to be more innovative and supply our customers with different products and solutions.

“One of the things I’ve learned already is that, no matter what size your business is, so much depends on the culture that you foster within it and how you engage with people.

“We’re a much smaller business than Amazon, but there’s still things that we can learn and apply.”

Leon Calverley, Founder & Director, Door4

Leon Calverley taking part in Amazon Innovation workshop

“The main current challenge that we face is the impact of next gen technology, specifically AI.

“Working with Amazon today will give us an insight into a large organisation with structured innovation thinking and that will filter down into an SME like us.

“A lot of what we’ve seen today is relevant to us. Even though we have a few dozen members of staff, we know we can get more innovation out of our people and make sure that our business is a better one from them to work in.”

The Art of the Possible

Small businesses taking part in Amazon Innovation Workshop

“This programme will encourage growth and innovation within the businesses,” said Ruth Hailwood, Organisational and Workforce Development Specialist, Made Smarter UK. “What businesses will see during this programme is the ‘art of the possible’ in how Amazon goes about things.

“They’re also hearing about Made Smarter’s approach to digital transformation for small businesses and it will give them things that they can take back to their businesses, implement and start seeing results.”

Amazon has supported small businesses in the UK for the last 25 years and in Greater Manchester there are almost 7,000 small businesses selling on Amazon, generating just under £200 million of export sales in 2022.

These local businesses provide vital services and jobs for the communities where they are based, and they are an important part of Amazon, with independent sellers making up more than 60% of sales worldwide, most of which are small and medium-sized businesses.

Read more about Amazon’s support for small businesses.