May 20, 2020

Alibaba to open first joint research centre in Singapore with Nanyang Technological University

2 min
Alibaba to open first joint research centre in Singapore with Nanyang Technological University

Alibaba is opening a research centre in Singapore in partnership with Nanyang Technological University.

This will be Alibaba’s first research facility in Singapore. The tech giant signed a memorandum of understanding at the university campus this week.

The amount of funding used for the research facility has not been disclosed but it will form part of the $15bn DAMO R&D fund Alibaba set up last year, and Alibaba has confirmed the partnership will be worth millions of dollars.

The facility will aim to research and develop AI technology to apply to transport and city planning, healthcare and smart homes.

It will initially involve 50 researchers from Alibaba and the university.

Alibaba has also expressed it wants to open its own DAMO facility independently in Sinfapore in the future.

See also:  

Alibaba to invest $15bn in R&D through DAMO

Ant Financial all set for IPO as Alibaba’s Q3 records released

Alibaba joins Tencent, Baidu and iFlyTek as China’s National AI Team

The DAMO fund is a new research institute developed by Alibaba called the “Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook” which is set to include seven new research labs and involved $15bn R&D spending over the next seven years. Aside from Singapore, DAMO plans to develop labs in China, the US, Russia and Israel.

This has marked a huge increase of spending on R&D for Alibaba, which in 2017 spend a total of $2.6bn on product development.

This is not Alibaba’s only planned partnership with a university and it already has an academic advisory board including professors from Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Washington, Beijing Institute of Technology and Peking University.

Jeff Zhang, Alibaba’s CTO, has said according to Straits Times that the lab will more specifically look into the diagnosis and prevention of diseased like arthritis and tuberculosis, investigating the possibility to analyse people’s daily activities using AI in order to detect problems.

Zhang has added that Singapore is a “natural base” as it is Alibaba’s regional base for Southeast Asia, and also has a multilingual population and strong research tradition.


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Jun 10, 2021

Why Alibaba Cloud is doubling down in Southeast Asia

Kate Birch
4 min
Amid fierce competition, Alibaba announces expansion of its cloud business in Southeast Asia, with plans to upskill developers and launch more datacenters

Alibaba has announced expansion of its cloud business within Southeast Asia, with the introduction of a digital upskilling programme for locals alongside acceleration of its data centre openings.

This doubling down of its cloud business in Southeast Asia comes as the company faces stiff competition at home in China from rivals including Pinduoduo Inc and Tencent and seeks to up its game in a region considered to be the fastest-growing in cloud adoption to compete with leading global cloud providers AWS, Google and Microsoft.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and second biggest revenue driver after its core e-commerce business, finally turned profitable for the first time in the December 2020 following 11 years of operation, thanks largely to the pandemic which has spurred businesses and consumers to get online.

Southeast Asia growing demand for cloud

In 2020, there was a noticeable increase in interest towards cloud in SE Asia, with the population embracing digital transformation during the pandemic and SMEs across the region showing increased demand for cloud computing.

Such demand has led to the expectation that Southeast Asia is now the fastest-growing adopter of cloud computing with the cloud market expected to reach US$40.32bn in Southeast Asia by 2025 according to IDC.

And there are plenty of players vying for a slice of the cloud pie. While AWS, the cloud arm of Amazon, is the leading player in Southeast Asia (and across all of APAC apart from China), Microsoft and Google are the next two most dominant players in Southeast Asia with Alibaba coming in fourth.

“There is no doubt that during the past year we have seen the acceleration of digital transformation efforts across all industries,” explains Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia. “Asia now accounts for 60% of the world’s growth and is leading the global recovery with the digitalization of business models and economies. Cloud will continue to be a core foundation empowering the realization of Asia’s ambitions, enabling co-innovation across industries, government and community, to drive inclusive societal progress.”

Alibaba’s commitment to Southeast Asia

At its annual Alibaba Cloud Summit, the Chinese company announced Project AsiaForward, an initiative designed to upskill local developers, small-to-medium-sized companies and connect businesses with venture capital. Alibaba said it would set aside US$1bn over the next three years to develop digital skills in the region, with the aim of helping to develop 100,000 developers and to help grow 100,000 tech startups.

But that’s not all. The company, which recently opened its third data centre in Indonesia, serving customers with offerings across database, security, network, machine learning and data analytics services, also announced it would unveil its first data centre in the Philippines by the end of 2021.

Furthermore, that it would establish its first international innovation centre, located in Malaysia, offering a one-stop shop platform for Malaysian SMEs, startups and developers to innovate in emerging technologies.

“We are seeing a strong demand for cloud-native technologies in emerging verticals across the region, from e-commerce and logistics platforms to FinTech and online entertainment. As the leading cloud service provider and trusted partner in APAC, we are committed to bettering the region’s cloud ecosystem and enhancing its digital infrastructure,” says Jeff Zhang, President, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

What other cloud providers are pledging in the region

This pledge by Alibaba to upskill both individuals and businesses follows Microsoft’s announcement in April that it was planning to upskill Malaysia’s population and would invest US$1bn over the next five years to build a new data centre centre in Malaysia.

This is the latest in a long line of pledges to the region by the US tech giant, which is fast accelerating the growth of its cloud datacenter footprint in Asia, expanding form seven 11 markets, and recently adding three new markets across Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. Back in February, it announced plans to establish its first datacenter region in Indonesia and to skill an additional 3 million Indonesians to achieve its goal of empowering over 24 million Indonesians by the end of 2021.

And recent research by IDC shows that Microsoft’s most recent datacenter expansions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan alone are set to generate more than US$21bn in new revenues and will create 100,000 new jobs in the next four years.

Also last month, Tencent announced it has launched internet data centres in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo to add to its second availability zone opened in Korea last year and plans to add an internet data center in Indonesia, and Google has also been pushing into the enterprise space in Southeast Asia for several years now.

Expanding data centers allows cloud providers to boost their capacity in certain countries or regions.



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