Ant Financial, the payment services provider owned by Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, has indicated that it will invest approximately $150 million in Indian firm, Zomato. This places the value of Zomato, a food delivery firm, at $1 billion. Zomato offers its services in a total of 24 countries and will allocate the funds to the improvement of products as well as technology.
The investment by the Alibaba unit in Zomato comes in the wake of the e-commerce giant partnering with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University to put up its first joint research center located abroad. The center will focus on the development of artificial intelligence aimed at solving modern challenges such as urban transport and ageing societies.
Initially 50 researchers drawn from the two organizations will be employed at the joint research center. The center will combine Alibaba’s research on cloud computing, machine learning and natural language processing with the human-centered artificial intelligence technology of Nanyang Technological University.
“Using AI technologies, we can address fundamental societal challenges such as ageing population which is a huge issue for cities with a rapidly ageing population such as Singapore,” said the president of Nanyang Technological University, Professor Subra Suresh, in a statement.
Tech firms in China are making heavy investments in AI research as they align themselves with a government policy of making the world’s most populous country the world leader in the artificial intelligence space by 2030.
Singapore’s AI firsts
Testing of the artificial intelligence solutions that will come out of the joint research facility will be conducted on the campus of Nanyang Technological University before being rolled out across Singapore as well as other Southeast Asian countries.
Last year Nanyang Technological University emerged as the leading university with regards to citations in research papers related to artificial intelligence. In the list compiled by Elsevier and Nikkei following behind Singaporean academic institution was Chinese Academy of Sciences. Additionally a report by Elsevier ranked Singapore second with regards to the impact AI research has had. In first position was Switzerland.
Per the chief technology officer of Alibaba, Jeff Zhang, the talent pool in Singapore coupled with the government’s efforts in artificial intelligence technology made the country the ideal location for Alibaba’s AI research center. Additionally being a multi-language country will also be helpful to Alibaba with regards to research in natural language processing and speech analysis. The AI research center will be funded by Alibaba’s $15 billion R&D program dedicated to global researchers.