Alibaba says it will invest more than $15 billion over three years in global research program

  • Alibaba announced it will invest more than $15 billion over the next three years in a global research and development program
  • As part of the program, Alibaba will set up research labs in China, the United States, Russia, Israel and Singapore
  • The labs will conduct research in areas such as data intelligence, Internet of Things, financial technology, quantum computing and human-machine interaction
Wang He | Getty Images
Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group attends the 2017 forum on rural headmasters on July 12, 2017 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province of China.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba announced Wednesday it will invest more than $15 billion over the next three years into a global research and development program to increase collaboration and develop new technologies.

That sum was slightly more than double the total amount Alibaba spent on R&D between 2014 and the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2017.

The program is called the Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook — DAMO Academy for short. As part of the program, Alibaba will set up seven research labs in Beijing, Hangzhou, San Mateo and Bellevue in the U.S., Moscow, Tel Aviv and Singapore, and recruit 100 researchers to staff them.

Those labs will undertake projects in areas of data intelligence, Internet of Things, financial technologies, quantum computing and human-machine interaction, including machine learning and Natural Language Processing. They would collaborate with institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley through its RISE Lab.

The program, Alibaba said, will be guided by an advisory board comprising researchers and educators from several top universities, including MIT.

The announcement was made by Alibaba Chief Technology Officer Jeff Zhang at the company's Computing Conference 2017 in Hangzhou, China.

Zhang, who will lead the academy, said in a prepared statement that the research program will be "at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners."

"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.

Alibaba said the program will help the tech giant fulfill its long-term commitment to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years.

Experts have previously said that China was moving more into the research and development of hardcore, cutting-edge technologies. In September, investment bank Goldman Sachs issued a report saying the world's second-largest economy has emerged as a major contender in using artificial intelligence to drive progress.

Other major Chinese tech companies, such as Baidu and Tencent, have in recent years opened research and development labs around the world to develop new technologies.