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Marketplaces and entrepreneurs among those investing in ecommerce technologies

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This week has seen news of investment in ecommerce innovation and training, highlighting the advanced skills required by an industry that deploys cutting-edge technology.

Marketplace Rakuten is opening the Rakuten Institute of Technology (RIT) in Paris, and in the UK, Kiddicare founder Scott Weavers-Wright (pictured) has launched Haatch to invest in digital start-ups, while KPMG has announced a push to take on and train up to 100 data scientists in the UK.

RIT will initially have five members of staff in Paris, adding, together with the company’s Big Data Group, a total of 20 staff to the Paris office this year. RIT also employs 40 staff in Tokyo and 10 in New York.

The group’s attention is firmly on projects that support the development of global ecommerce, and it aims to provide innovations to help e-retailers grow their brands. Projects will be in areas including data analytics, fraud detection, language, recommendation systems, image processing, user interfaces and the ecommerce move from online to offline. The Paris office in particular will focus on the links between bricks-and-mortar stores and online services, as well as looking at new forms of digital interaction.

“Rakuten’s business covers a wide variety of fields including logistics, digital media payments and of course ecommerce,” said Laurent Ach, director of the Rakuten Technology Institute in Paris. “Innovation is fundamental when it comes to improving these services, and we want to be the company anticipating future uses for these types of technology.”

Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of Rakuten, said: “Our aim globally is to empower retailers and merchants to sell online, and to do this we must keep up with consumers’ browsing and buying habits – online, on mobile, via social and any other channels they may want to use in their purchase journey.”

He added: “We’re dedicated to driving internet revolution as a global tech brand and on our merchants’ behalf. The more creative technology solutions there are, the stronger the domestic and global economies will be.”

In the UK, Haatch is founding a £1.5m incubation centre for digital start-ups, and will also invest in the innovators who found them.

Weavers-Wright, who took Kiddicare from technology start-up to its sale to Morrisons, said: “We want to bring something unique to the UK’s business investment landscape and give promising young start-ups a real opportunity to grow fast whilst enhancing their commercial knowledge rather than investing in them and sitting quietly.

“We’re all passionate business and technology professionals and whilst we won’t ever run the businesses we invest in, we’ll provide our knowledge and expertise to help them succeed.”

Investments to date include Iterate Studio which discovers and curates disruptive technologies from start-ups for a group of retail and media companies.

Finally, the first UK Data Science Summer School will be held to meet demand for data scientists in areas including retail.

The school, run by pivigo academy, is set to take on 100 European PhD students and turn them into data scientists over the course of five intensive weeks. The school aims to build talent for the emerging data science industry, while helping academics to cross over into the commercial world.

“Data science will change the way we live, work and interact with others,” said Alwin Magimay, head of data and analytics at KPMG, which is sponsoring the summer school. “It presents a real opportunity for business to drive insight and value from the abundance of data being created in the digital world. We are only at the very beginning of this revolution and KPMG wants to be at the forefront of it.”

Kim Nilsson, the Swedish astrophysicist who founded and now heads pivigo, said: “We are very excited about the changes and advantages that data science will bring to society and passionate about supporting the efforts of UK companies exploring data business cases.”

Applications to the summer school can be made via

Our view: These announcements underline the importance of investment in both retail and related technologies and people. All of these are likely to drive economies as the advanced skills that they supply broaden knowledge bases – and make the way we shop ever more convenient.

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