Alibaba to double R&D spending to USD 15 bln, with eye towards 'moonshot' projects

Wednesday 11 October 2017 | 09:16 CET | News

Alibaba said it will be doubling its R&D spend over the coming three years to USD 15 billion in order to develop next-generation technology and explore moonshot projects aimed at upending industries, Bloomberg reported. Alibaba plans to set up seven research labs and hire 100 scientists around the world to push further into artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and quantum computing, the company said in an emailed statement. Specific fields include machine learning, visual computing and network security.

The research programme will be called the Alibaba DAMO Academy, short for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook. Labs will be set up across China, the US, Russia, Israel and Singapore and collaborations will be funded with universities, including the University of California at Berkeley. Professors from institutions such as Princeton and Harvard will sit on an advisory board. 

“The labs will help solve issues that Alibaba is currently facing across its business lines,” Jeff Zhang, Alibaba’s chief technology officer, said in a telephone interview. “It will also be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology.” 

The planned investment compares to the USD 6.4 billion the company spent on R&D over the past three fiscal years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alibaba already has 25,000 engineers and scientists on staff and has spent an average CNY 20 billion (USD 3 billion) a year on research, the company said in the statement.

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