context: AI and ICT are sectors where private R&D funding can match up to state support. Still, frontrunners like Alibaba are likely to benefit from major state-funded projects like the AI 2.0 megaproject, which is the only megaproject with an open tender.

Zhejiang Lab hopes to become a state laboratory by 2025, says Zhu Zhiqiang 朱志強 Lab director (note: this is the top national designation; there are now five such labs). The lab was founded by Zhejiang province, Zhejiang University (ZU) and Alibaba Group in September 2017 as China’s first public-private research joint venture. It is a prototype of university-business-government collaboration in frontier research, says Pu Jiajun卜佳俊 ZU School of Software director. In the partnership

  • Alibaba supplies data, financial resources, digital engineers and a market for technology innovations
  • ZU brings skilled labour: professors, skilled researchers and students
  • local government involvement guarantees preferential policies, and local hukou and civil service employment status for researchers

Zhejiang Lab has launched projects in

  • smart robotics
  • smart search engines for the internet, mobile networks and the internet of things
    • machine learning
    • information gathering
    • intention understanding
    • automatic response
    • identification
  • AI algorithms
  • smart chips
  • healthcare big data
    • biomedicine data analysis
    • medical image analysis
    • smart clinical information system
    • smart hospital management
    • data-drive pharmaceutical R&D
    • group health management
    • disease control and prevention

Alibaba and National Technology University of Singapore unveiled a joint doctoral training institute on AI, cloud computing, blockchain and IoT, reports China News. Together with DAMO Academy, a joint laboratory with Tsinghua University, these institutes put cross-disciplinary research and extensive scholarly exchange at the heart of Alibaba’s R&D, says Xu Yingqing 徐迎庆 Alibaba-Tsinghua Lab director.

AI is the primary project of Hangzhou’s digital economy initiative. It has moved from R&D to commercial application, reports Xinhua, claiming that Hangzhou is world leading in

  • facial and image recognition (iFlytek)
  • voice assistants (Canaan.io)
  • smart finance (Hundsun Tech)
  • smart urban governing (Alibaba’s ‘City Brain’)