Chinese technology firm Alibaba has announced today that it is launching a $15bn drive to build overseas research hubs.

The new hubs, which will come under the new Alibaba Damo Academy brand, will focus on research and development for the e-commerce company.

The company’s chief technology officer, Jeff Zhang, said:

The Alibaba Damo Academy will be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners.

What will the investment focus on?

Alibaba is planning to launch eight research bases across eight cities in China, Israel, the US, Russia, and Singapore.

The research areas will include internet of things (IoT), fintech, quantum computer and artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking at Alibaba Cloud’s annual Computing Conference, Alibaba’s executive chairman Jack Ma, said that the company is now in the position to launch research labs, similar to the likes of IBM and Microsoft.

He said:

Without strong and abundant financial resources, it’s hard to establish a research institute.

As well, he said the focus of the research will be on “solving problems for fun and profit”.

Only by doing so will a research institute solve problems. For any organisation, if they can’t solve problems in society, they won’t last long.

This particular investment in research infrastructure will help Alibaba achieve its goal of 2bn customers within the next 20 years.

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With our technology and capital and responsibility, we can build a world-class research institute.

Alibaba is investing huge sums of money in expansion

The e-commerce firm has been stepping up its investments over the past few years in order to compete with its competitors, such as US-based company Amazon.

It recently invested in new data centres across the world, from Europe, the US and the Middle East.

This is part of a bid to boost its cloud business, to compete with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Earlier this year, it spent around $2bn to acquire a majority stake in a Singapore-based retailer Lazada. As well, it has been trying to spend $1.2bn in a bid for the US money transfer service, MoneyGram.

However, this deal has come under government scrutiny.

US politicians have said that the acquisition could pose national security threats. They argued that the information of US citizens, including details belonging to military personnel, could be compromised.