On February 28, 2018, Alibaba and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) formed a collaborative research institute to focus on artificial intelligence. Although the five-year partnership involves millions in financing each year, both organizations declined to reveal the exact figure. The joint venture marks NTU’s largest collaboration on artificial intelligence with the private sector. On the other hand, it represents Alibaba’s first-ever joint research facility to be located outside China.
Both NTU and Alibaba will provide 50 researchers to kick-start their cooperation. The entire task will aim at integrating the university’s artificial intelligence technology with the Internet giant’s capabilities like cloud computing, machine learning, and computer vision. NTU’s artificial intelligence technology has also proved useful in various areas like communities, homes, aging, and health.
In a joint statement by Alibaba and NTU, the organizations revealed that the partnership’s aim entails the further exploration of real-life AI solutions and technology breakthroughs. They added that their target is to roll out AI solutions to different areas such as the retail community, homes, nursing homes, hospitals and urban transportation throughout the coming five years.
Jeff Zhang, Alibaba’s chief technology officer, said that researchers from both organizations would work together on AI applications in a wide array of fields. For instance, the technological capabilities possessed by NTU and Alibaba can be used to record and evaluate the daily undertakings of the elderly at nursing homes or people at home. These technologies cannot only assist in predicting or detecting problems but also providing AI assistance and companions.
As a way to show how their joint venture would lead to impressive breakthroughs, both parties looked at the healthcare sector. Alibaba has made a name for itself in the sector thanks to the creation and implementation of its “medical brain,” which seeks to speed up the prevention or diagnosis of diseases like arthritis and tuberculosis. Combining this achievement with Nanyang Technological University’s healthcare research could ultimately lead to groundbreaking developments.
Furthermore, the senior minister of state (health, environment and water resources), Dr. Amy Khor, acknowledged Alibaba for its digital inventions like medical brain during the launch of the research institute. She added that potential partnerships between the NTU-Alibaba research institute and established research centers like NTU LILY Research Centre would undeniably strengthen the healthcare sector.
According to NTU’s president, Subra Suresh, the joint venture stemmed from talks that lasted nearly two years between the university and Alibaba. He also pointed out Alibaba’s acknowledgment of NTU’s leadership role in various fields like artificial intelligence and data science.
Jeff Zhang revealed that the partnership with NTU makes up a portion of the research and development endeavors of the Internet giant’s DAMO academy, launched last October. As a result. Alibaba will be funding the tie-up through the 15$ billion fund allocated for the DAMO academy programme. In his statement, he added that the company selected NTU in recognition of the university’s strong research background. In addition, Mr. Zhang highlighted opportunities for NTU’s staff, faculty and students to participate in exchange programmes in Alibaba’s facilities.