The Alibaba Group has announced that it will be investing some $15 billion to establish a new research institute. CEO Jack Ma believes that the time has come for the company to follow in the footsteps of the great technology giants like Microsoft and Intel, and begin contributing back to the world with its own scientific work.
DAMO is short for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook; which is at least an attempt at clarifying its end goals. Ma, on the other hand, outlined a more practical approach to wht DAMO will attempt to do. Primarily, that it should manage to outlive Alibaba as a company because the work done at the institute will be far more important than e-commerce.
Researchers at the labs will fill the same role as those in the academy’s western counterparts. Looking into problems that can be solved with the use of technology, and anything that could potentially be turned into a viable product. That said, Ma also emphasised that DAMO would be kept separate from the Alibaba Group to allow it to work independently.
Laboratories will be set up in seven cities across the globe. These will be in Beijing, Hangzhou, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Singapore, San Mateo, and Bellevue. DAMO is currently looking to staff these labs with top researchers; looking to recruit around 100 talented individuals to begin work.
Ma said that it is no longer the time for China to follow in the footsteps of the west. Instead, Alibaba has the advantage of being the late mover; having learnt from the mistakes of those that blazed the part before it. According to Ma, great companies must be able to solve great problems in the world.
Ultimately, Ma hopes that DAMO will be able to survive on its own. Drawing profits from patents and innovations created from the work of its researchers. That said, he admitted that companies cannot just rely on short-sighted goals of only making more money. Instead, they must invest in R&D to maintain the competitive edge and stay ahead through innovation.