Alibaba Group announced its new DAMO Academy for fundamental and disruptive technology research at Alibaba Cloud’s Computing Conference 2017 in Hangzhou. The company will invest US$15 billion into the project, featuring a dozen top-notch international scientists working in quantum computing, machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, cybersecurity, human-computer interaction, fintech, IoT, hardware, and more.
DAMO stands for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook. A more literal translation — Dharma Academy — refers to the highest-ranked martial arts academy in Chinese historical fiction.
DAMO is the sequel to Alibaba’s “NASA” plan announced earlier this year, which involves more than 20,000 scientists. The company describes DAMO as an “independent R&D department, fuelling an economy that serves two billion people.”
The academy has already begun reaching out to the international R&D community. Alibaba, which currently has 200 partnered research institutions worldwide, says it will also open DAMO laboratories in Beijing, Hangzhou, Singapore, Israel, San Mateo, Victoria, and Moscow.
Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma says he did not want to copy IBM, Microsoft, and other technology companies’ research lab strategies. Instead, he decided to create a more socially-oriented entity with the ambitious goal of surpassing current industry leaders. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is, because “without abundant financial resources, it’s impossible to establish a research institute.”
The DAMO Academy will focus on “solving problems for fun and for profit” and making new technology more accessible for the betterment of society.
DAMO’s advisory committee includes UC Berkeley AI scientist Michael I. Jordan, Director of the Data Science Institute at Columbia University Jeannette M. Wing, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School George M. Church, and scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science and Peking University.
Ma believes Alibaba Group can revolutionize future-oriented technologies through DAMO. His goal for the next two decades is to turn Alibaba into the world’s fifth largest economy, injecting 100 million jobs, generating billions of dollars in cross-border trade, and fostering 10 million SME enterprises.
“A sense of social responsibility backs Alibaba’s technology research. We are not only a commercial entity, we are also responsible for leading innovation in this nation and this epoch.”
Journalist: Meghan Han | Editor: Michael Sarazen