Alibaba looking to be largest backer of facial recognition firm SenseTime

Bloomberg is reporting that Alibaba is in discussions to invest about $227M USD and become the largest backer of Chinese facial recognition firm SenseTime, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The source indicated that Alibaba has no interest in exerting control over the artificial intelligence start-up, but is keen on owning a sizeable stake. SenseTime, valued at more than $2 billion, is backed by Qualcomm.

Alibaba is already an investor in Megvii’s Face++, which raised $460 million in its latest financing round.

Earlier this year, it was reported that China will boost growth of its artificial intelligence sector over the next three years, through a specific innovation program.

Under the strategy, jointly formulated by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Cyberspace Administration of China, national government departments will identify supportive fiscal policies for the sector and boost international cooperation.

Under the plan, China aims to create a market worth more than US$15.26 billion. Research vendor i-Research expects the value of China’s AI market to reach US$9.1 billion in 2020, growing at a 50 percent annual compound rate.

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