View of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, showcasing the architecture of its main building with an expansive green lawn in the foreground on a sunny autumn day.
Amazon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the establishment of the Science Hub, a collaboration that will focus on areas of mutual interest, beginning with artificial intelligence and robotics. Amazon will provide funding to support research and academic fellowships.
Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

Amazon and MIT establish Science Hub

The collaboration will support research, education, and outreach efforts in areas of mutual interest, beginning with artificial intelligence and robotics.

Amazon and MIT today announced the establishment of the Science Hub, a collaboration that will focus on areas of mutual interest, beginning with artificial intelligence and robotics in the first year. To get the hub started, Amazon will provide gift and sponsored research funding over the next five years to support research and academic fellowships on campus.

The primary goals of the hub are to ensure the benefits of AI and robotics innovations are shared broadly — both through education and by advancing research — and to broaden participation in the research from diverse, interdisciplinary scholars, and other innovators.

 Aude Oliva, a senior research scientist and director of strategic industry engagement in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
Aude Oliva, a senior research scientist and director of strategic industry engagement in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing

“AI and robotics have an enormous impact on every aspect of our lives, fundamentally changing how we work, learn, access resources and services, and connect to one another — so it’s critical we conduct research that advances the field in ways that are responsible, effective, and beneficial to society,” said Aude Oliva, a senior research scientist and director of strategic industry engagement in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. “We take an expansive view of AI and robotics to include expertise from across all five of the Institute’s schools. We’re excited by the potential of collaborations with industry leaders who bring their insights to the research, want to support the next generation of talent, and are best positioned to implement what is learned.”

Oliva will serve as the principal investigator for the Science Hub, which will be administered at MIT by the Schwarzman College of Computing, a cross-cutting entity with education and research links across MIT to increase connections in computing and AI.

Amazon’s support of the new Science Hub underscores a continuing commitment to collaborating with academia on research efforts as well as helping to fund the education and training of future scientists who reflect the diversity of perspectives and expertise at Amazon, MIT, and around the world.

Tye Brady, MIT alumni and Amazon Robotics chief technologist, noted that Amazon’s existing relationship with a number of MIT faculty helped lay the groundwork for the collaboration.

“Over the years we’ve worked with great people at MIT like Russ Tedrake, Alberto Rodriguez, Daniela Rus, Julie Shah, and Nicholas Roy,” Brady said. “Their hard work and ability to perform world class research is a model for what is possible when industry and academia work together.”

We are particularly keen to utilize the breadth of collaboration mechanisms available in the new hub, including sponsored research which could lead to open-source publications and community outreach.
Siddhartha Srinivasa

The gift will enable a broad set of programs across MIT, including fellowships that will be awarded annually to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, as well as support for events and activities that accelerate AI and robotics research in ways to make it more accessible, such as research symposia that are open to other academic institutions and the public. Additional sponsored research funds will support research projects led by MIT faculty members.

“We are delighted to join forces with MIT, bringing together top scientists and engineers from our two organizations in a joint endeavor to find solutions to the most challenging problems in AI and robotics,” Brady said. “MIT’s well-established record of conducting leading-edge, multi-disciplinary research paired with Amazon’s emphasis on translating research into applied science will help ensure the new hub results in practical solutions whose benefits extend beyond industry and academia.”

“We are particularly keen to utilize the breadth of collaboration mechanisms available in the new hub, including sponsored research which could lead to open-source publications and community outreach that will broaden participation in the research process,” added Siddhartha Srinivasa director, Amazon Robotics AI. “These mechanisms are now open to all the business areas of Amazon beyond Robotics too, so we are excited to see the breadth of innovation to come from this collaboration in the coming years.”

Amazon in Massachusetts

The Science Hub complements existing collaborations between Amazon and MIT, and Amazon’s research presence in the Boston area, including an Alexa science team in Cambridge.

Dating back to 2003, Amazon has had a longstanding engagement with the MIT Leaders for Global Operations, focusing on data analytics, supply chain and systems optimization research.

Earlier this year, the Amazon Last Mile team announced a collaboration with MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics (MIT CTL) with the aim of incorporating driver know-how into route optimization models. The two groups sponsored a competition, called the Amazon Last Mile Routing Research Challenge, in which academic teams trained machine learning models to predict the delivery routes chosen by experienced drivers. The winners of that competition were announced recently.

In addition, Amazon’s Core AI team in Boston features three MIT faculty currently working as Amazon Scholars: Victor Chernozhukov, the International Ford Professor in the MIT Department of Economics and Statistics and Data Science Center; Yury Polyanskiy, associate professor in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, and Statistics and Data Center; and Alexander Rakhlin, professor in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Statistics and Data Science Center.

Amazon is also building a new state-of-the-art robotics innovation center in Westborough, Mass. Opening this fall, the company is investing more than $40 million in the new site to allow Amazon Robotics to continue to grow its engineering, manufacturing, support and test teams in the state. The new 350,000 square feet facility will feature corporate offices, research and development labs, and manufacturing space and will be in addition to Amazon Robotics’ current site in North Reading — together serving as the company’s epicenter of robotics innovation.

Amazon also announced plans earlier this year to expand its Boston Tech Hub. The expansion will create 3,000 jobs which will include technology roles in software development, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, along with non-tech corporate roles in product management, HR, finance, and more. Amazon has invested more than $10 billion in Massachusetts over the past decade, including opening five fulfillment and sortation centers, 13 delivery stations, and 33 Whole Foods Market locations. Those investments have helped to create more than 20,000 full- and part-time jobs across the state.

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