Alibaba Will Invest $15 Billion in R&D Through 2020

Chinese company will open seven research labs: China (Beijing and Hangzhou), the U.S. (San Mateo, Calif. and Bellevue, Wash.), Russia (Moscow), Israel (Tel Aviv) and Singapore.

Cloud Project Management

One of the world’s largest and most successful cloud-based product-and-services merchants is spreading its investments in research and development way beyond its home country.

China-based Alibaba Group, which operates one of the world’s busiest e-commerce sites, said Oct. 10 that it is investing a cool $15 billion during the next three years into R&D developments in seven locations—including two in the United States.

Alibaba competes in the same international market as Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, eBay, Craigslist and other online product and services clearinghouses.

Alibaba Group is launching a global research program, Alibaba DAMO Academy, it says is designed to “increase technological collaboration worldwide, advance the development of cutting-edge technology and strive to make the world more inclusive by narrowing the technology gap.”

Academy Will Oversee Research Labs

DAMO (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook) Academy will oversee the opening of research and development labs worldwide and seek to recruit talented scientists and researchers to join the program. Alibaba Group’s Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Zhang, will serve as director of the academy.

At the outset, the academy will focus on the opening of seven research labs in China (Beijing and Hangzhou), the U.S. (San Mateo, Calif. and Bellevue, Wash.), Russia (Moscow), Israel (Tel Aviv) and Singapore. The labs will focus on both foundational and disruptive technology research, including data intelligence, internet of things, fintech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction.

Within those research areas, the labs will focus on topics such as machine learning, network security, visual computing, natural language processing (NLP) and others. In building this out, the academy is currently looking to recruit 100 talented researchers from around the world.

The labs will collaborate with thought leaders in technology and 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,” Zhang said. 

“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.”

Alibaba Goals: 2 Billion Customers, 100 Million Jobs

Alibaba said its goal is to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million job opportunities in 20 years. The company said it has about 25,000 engineers and scientists on its staff.

The academy has 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 initial academy advisory board members are:

  • Prof. Avi Wigderson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
  • Prof. George Church, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Henry M. Levy, Director of the School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
  • Prof. Hong Mei, Vice President of Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Jeannette Wing, Director of the Data Science Institute, Columbia University
  • Prof. Kai Li, Princeton University
  • Prof. Michael I. Jordan, University of California, Berkeley
  • Prof. Ru Huang, Dean of School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science, Peking University
  • Prof. Wen Gao, Dean of Faculty of Information and Engineering Sciences, Peking University
  • Zhaohui Wu, President of Zhejiang University
Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...