Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Hong Kong — Alibaba Group Holding will more than double research and development spending to $15bn 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 says.

Specific fields include machine learning, visual computing and network security.

The programme marks a significant ramp-up in its research and development outlay and is intended to help the $469bn behemoth keep pace with Amazon.com and Tencent in potentially industry-changing advancements.

It is also 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 $6.4bn the company spent on research and development over the past three fiscal years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

It is calling its global research programme the Alibaba DAMO Academy — short for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook.

It will set up labs across China, the US, Russia, Israel and Singapore, and fund collaborations with universities, including the University of California at Berkeley.

It has 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 ($3bn) a year on research, the company said in Wednesday’s statement.


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