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Alibaba invests US$15B in overseas research hubs for AI, fintech


Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is investing US$15 billion to establish overseas research hubs to work on artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and fintech, according to a report by BNN.

The Alibaba ‘Damo’ academy will comprise of eight research bases in China, Israel, the United States, Russia and Singapore, for which the company will hire 100 researchers.

“The Alibaba DAMO Academy will be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners,” Jeff Zhang, chief technology officer of Alibaba, said.

The company and its affiliates have experienced a rapid expansion in the past year, putting it in direct competition with heavyweight e-tailer Amazon.com, as well as global payments, cloud and logistics companies.

Since 2016, Alibaba has invested approximately US$2 billion to acquire a majority stake in Singapore-based retailer Lazada.com, creating a network of e-commerce hubs across Southeast Asia by partnering with payment affiliate Ant Financial.

The company has also pursued a $1.2 billion bid for U.S. money transfer service MoneyGram, in a pending acquisition that some people have condemned as a potential national security threat.

In addition to the company’s existing data science research lab in California, Alibaba has opened new data centers in Europe, the United States, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, India and Indonesia since 2016, in an effort to expand its cloud business.

The investment arrives at a time when Beijing has increased state funding in quantum computing, AI and big data, calling on provincial governments, universities, the military and private firms to increase their efforts in developing advanced technology in areas where China falls behind developed countries.

Alibaba said it currently has 25,000 engineers, and that the new research network will help the company achieve its goal of reaching two billion customers within two decades.

Previously reported, Alibaba Group announced last month that two of its units are testing facial recognition technology which will allow users to unlock delivery drop boxes.

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