Alibaba to Spend $15 Billion on Moonshot projects with AI and Quantum Computer focus

Alibaba will more than double research and development spending to $15 billion over the next three years to develop next-generation technology, drive its sprawling business and explore moonshot projects that could upend industries.

The e-commerce giant plans to set up seven research labs and hire 100 scientists around the world to delve 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 program marks a significant ramp-up in its R&D outlay and is intended to help the $469 billion behemoth keep pace with Amazon.com Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. in potentially industry-changing advancements. It’s in line with ambitions voiced by top policy makers who want China to become a global leader in artificial intelligence.

“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 $6.4 billion the company spent on R&D over the past three fiscal years.

It’s calling its global research program the Alibaba DAMO Academy– short for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook. It will set up labs across China, the U.S., Russia, Israel and Singapore and fund collaborations with universities, including the University of California at Berkeley. And it’s enlisted professors from institutions such as Princeton and Harvard to sit on an advisory board.

Alibaba already has 25,000 engineers and scientists on staff and has spent an average 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) a year on research.

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