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Alibaba to nearly triple R&D spending to $15 billion over three years – China’s latest business and technology news


Ecommerce giant Alibaba is furthering its push into new technologies such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence with a $15 billion initiative that will “launch eight research bases in China, Israel, the United States, Russia and Singapore,” Reuters reports. The research and development (R&D) unit leading the initiative, set to spend the money over three years, the Wall Street Journal says (paywall), is called the Alibaba Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook (DAMO).

Will Alibaba DAMOnate in tech?

  • Reuters notes that the project “comes as Beijing prioritizes state funding in quantum computing, AI and big data, urging provincial governments, universities, the military and private firms to play a bigger role in developing advanced technology.” In other words, government support for this and future R&D initiatives seems assured.
  • But the Journal says that DAMO’s funding is still a fraction of what American tech companies, for example, spend on similar research. In 2016, Google parent company Alphabet spent $13.9 billion on R&D, and Amazon spent $16 billion, whereas Alibaba spent just $2.6 billion in the fiscal year ending in March 2017. The new announcement will nearly triple Alibaba’s investment, but even so, these companies will continue to have an edge in recruiting and maintaining global talent, the Journal indicates.

Meanwhile, Alibaba faces competition in a different sector back home: luxury sales. In China, JD.com is “launching a standalone luxury ecommerce platform to target buyers in the country’s smaller cities,” where 80 percent of online luxury sales occur, the Financial Times reports (paywall). The service, called Toplife, will feature “dust-free” warehouses and bring a signature white-glove delivery service to nearly every door in urban China. Learn more about JD.com’s luxury delivery system in this July piece (paywall) in the New York Times.


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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.