DAMO Academy’s initials stand for “discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook”. Alibaba Group’s CTO, Jeff Zhang will lead the academy and start by opening labs in seven different cities around the world: Beijing and Hangzhou in China; San Mateo and Bellevue in the U.S.; Moscow, Russia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Singapore.

Alibaba Group in NYC
© Christopher Penler /

This massive undertaking doesn’t come without close collaboration with university programs the likes of U.C. Berkeley’s RISE Lab, which develops technologies that enable computers to make secure decisions based on real-time data. Professors from Princeton, Harvard, MIT, the University of Washington, Columbia University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Peking University and Zhejiang University are already on DAMO Academy’s advisory board.

According to Catherine Shu at Tech Crunch, there is a lot of research that will be going on within the walls of DAMO including data intelligence, the Internet of Things, financial tech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction. Specifically, Alibaba Group said researchers will look at machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing.

New Pools of Talent

Alibaba and other major Chinese tech firms set up labs in the U.S., working closely with technology researchers and universities. Programs such as DAMO give them an edge, letting them search new talent pools without twisting candidates’ arms into moving to China. All of this fresh, new talent is also lured away from rivals like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Examples of these other Chinese tech giants are Baidu’s research lab in Silicon Valley, working on big data, deep learning and artificial intelligence (they are also recruiting from top American research universities), whilst Tencent (the maker of WeChat) is planning to set up an AI research lab in Seattle. Last year, Huawei also set up an AI research partnership with U.C. Berkeley with initial funding of $1 million.