Technological University, Singapore (NTU) and the Alibaba Group (Alibaba) officially
the Alibaba-NTU Singapore Joint
Research Institute today for the creation and testing of artificial
intelligence (AI) solutions to address societal challenges. This is Alibaba’s
first joint research institute outside of China.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between NTU President, Professor Subra Suresh and Alibaba Group Chief Technology Officer, Mr
Jeff Zhang. The ceremony was graced by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of the
Environment and Water Resources and Ministry of Health, Singapore.
The Institute is being set up with multimillion dollar annual investment from
Alibaba for an initial five years, starting with a pool of 50 researchers from Alibaba
The University has built up deep expertise in key areas
shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as AI, data science and
robotics. NTU is a top university for AI research in global rankings compiled
jointly by Nikkei and Elsevier, based on measurement of research citations
between 2012 and 2016. NTU’s LILY
research centre which focuses on active living for the elderly has received
several international AI awards.
The institute will seek to combine NTU’s human-centred AI
technology which has been applied to areas such as health, ageing, homes and
communities, with Alibaba’s leading technologies including Natural Language
Processing (NLP), computer vision, machine learning and cloud computing to
explore further technology breakthroughs and real-life AI solutions.
NTU students, staff and faculty will have opportunities to
go on exchange to Alibaba’s facilities and vice versa, while working on
cutting-edge AI research. In addition, the two parties will work together
for building a crowdsourcing platform to connect researchers and industry
practitioners around the world within an AI-focused R&D ecosystem,
encouraging global AI experts, research institutions and universities to join
and contribute to the AI research community.
A key aspect of the Smart
Campus vision revealed by NTU President, Professor Subra Suresh, in January
this year, is the test-bedding and deployment of new technologies, policies,
and practices on the NTU campus, that can inform and assist Singapore to become
a Smart City and a Smart Nation.
The AI technologies developed through the collaboration will
be tested on the NTU Smart Campus to demonstrate the effectiveness of the
solutions so that they can be taken with confidence to the market in Singapore
and rest of the world.
The aim is to deploy AI solutions over the next five years
in scenarios ranging from home, retail, community and urban transportation to
hospitals and nursing homes, to help people live healthier, smarter and happier
Professor Suresh said:
“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. For example, virtual AI assistants can be
deployed to improve work productivity and smart sensors can be used to watch
the health of the elderly, with data stored on the cloud for continuous
“We are excited to work with the best and brightest around
the world such as researchers at NTU to develop smart solutions for our future.
Alibaba has been dedicated to working on technology breakthroughs and practical
applications of AI, and this collaboration is another example of how we are
advancing our technological leadership globally for better living and enabling
businesses worldwide through innovation,” added Mr Zhang.
NTU Singapore Vice
President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong said key outcomes of
industry-academia partnerships are innovation and education, where disruptive
ideas are turned into marketable products and NTU students gain skills and
knowledge for the 21st century workplace.
“We are very excited to be partnering with Alibaba, a company that has made its
mark in the world of e-commerce, e-payment, cloud computing and AI-driven
technologies through their use of disruptive technologies and innovation over
the last decade. Our research expertise will complement Alibaba’s extensive
business and technological experience to tackle challenging problems in their
business ecosystem,” he commented.
Ms Liu Xiangwen, Director, Technology
Strategy Department at Alibaba Group, who will be Alibaba’s lead for the
joint research institute, said, “Our partnership with NTU Singapore
demonstrates the close alignment of Alibaba’s strategic vision with Singapore’s
Smart Nation initiative to leverage technology for the good of the community.
We look forward to further strengthening Alibaba’s competency in AI with the
support of Singapore’s strong R&D capabilities and co-create future-ready
solutions for the world."