The Next Silicon Valley

Alibaba to open seven research labs globally to develop new technologies for itself and partners

The Alibaba Group is to establish seven new research centers around the world to focus on developing new technologies. Called the Alibaba DAMO Academy (academy for discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook), it will invest US$15billion in research and development over the next three years with labs in China (Beijing and Hangzhou), the United States (San Mateo and Bellevue), Russia (Moscow), Israel (Tel Aviv) and Singapore.

The labs will focus on both foundational and disruptive technology research including data intelligence, internet of things (IoT), fintech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction. Within those broad research areas, the labs will focus on topics such as machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing (NLP). The labs will recruit talented scientists and researchers to join the program, and is currently looking to recruit 100 talented researchers from around the world.

The labs will also collaborate with luminaries in the technology space and top educational institutions to explore technology breakthroughs aimed at improving the lives of technology end-users and boosting the efficiency and security of enterprises globally. For example, the academy will cooperate with the University of California, Berkeley through its RISE Lab on areas such as secured real-time computing.

“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,” said Jeff Zhang, Alibaba Group’s chief technology officer, who will also be the head of the academy.

“Over the past 18 years, we have developed a robust technology infrastructure that supports the rapid growth of our business. With our global expansion, we have grown and refined our technology manifold. We are now looking for talented and driven researchers to join us in the quest for new disruptive technologies that would advance our every-day lives, benefit small businesses and narrow the technology gap to make our world a more inclusive place,” Zhang added.

The company says that its academy is the first major global initiative to focus on developing the global technological capabilities and infrastructure that will enable Alibaba to fulfill its commitment to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million job opportunities in 20 years. Alibaba now has around 25,000 engineers and scientists on its staff.

Commenting in this initiative, Zacks Equity Research says this now puts the company in the same league as other Chinese firms. With the move, Alibaba joins other Chinese tech companies who are also opening research labs and collaborating with universities and technology researches in the United States and other countries. Baidu’s Silicon Valley research lab, which is engaged in AI, big data and deep learning related work, is recruiting from leading research universities of the United States.

Last year. Huawei set up an AI research center partnering U.C. Berkeley. Tencent will set up an AI research lab in Seattle.

Zacks adds, “We believe that with this move, Alibaba is trying to tap diverse global talent who could develop technologies, thus giving the company a leading edge over rivals like Amazon AMZN, Apple AAPL, Facebook FB and Google. By setting up labs worldwide, the company is making sure that it lures talent by asking them to work for it without having to move to China.”

The academy will set up an advisory board of globally renowned educators and researchers who will provide guidance and advice on the research direction and key research areas of the labs. The Academy advisory board members are:

[Image: The Alibaba Group]

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