Alibaba is funnelling $15bn into overseas research and development

11 Oct 2017

Alibaba offices in Bejing. Image: testing/Shutterstock

Alibaba is launching a major funding drive to create research hubs.

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s business is undoubtedly soaring, having achieved year-on-year growth in revenue of 56pc, according to a quarterly report released by the company in August of this year.

In an intriguing new development, Alibaba is to launch seven research bases in Israel, China, the US, Russia and Singapore, and is looking for talent in fields such as quantum computing, fintech and AI.

The company expects to invest more than $15bn in research and development over the next three years under the moniker DAMO Academy, which stands for discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook.

Uncovering breakthrough technologies

CTO Jeff Zhang will be head of the academy, which will seek to recruit 100 researchers and scientists. The globally distributed research labs will will focus on both foundational and disruptive technology research, including data intelligence, internet of things and human-machine interaction.

Zhang stated: “The Alibaba DAMO Academy will be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners. We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end users and businesses everywhere.”

He also said that Alibaba wants to help small businesses and narrow the technology gap, “to make our world a more inclusive place”. Currently, the e-commerce giant has 25,000 engineers and scientists on its staff, and hopes to create 100m job opportunities within the next two decades.

Alibaba’s academic advisers

The academy will also have an advisory board comprising educators and researchers to provide guidance and advice on the key research areas of the labs.

They include Prof Jeannette Wing, director of the Data Science Institute at Columbia University; Prof Avi Wigderson, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; and Prof Ru Huang, dean of the School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science at Peking University.

The research investment demonstrates how Alibaba is moving beyond e-commerce to become a global force, competing with the likes of Microsoft and Google. According to Quartz, the Singapore lab will be launching early next year.

Alibaba offices in Bejing. Image: testing/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects