Chinese online retail giant Alibaba has launched a new global programme that will see it invest more than US$15m in the research and development of technology over the next three years, with the opening of seven research labs in China, the US, Russia, Israel and Singapore.

The 'Alibaba DAMO Academy' aims to increase technological collaboration worldwide, advance the development of cutting-edge technology and "make the world more inclusive" by narrowing the technology gap.

Led by Alibaba's chief technology officer, Jeff Zhang, the DAMO Academy – which stands for the 'Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook' - will oversee the lab openings worldwide and seek to recruit scientists and researchers to join the programme.

Located in Beijing and Hangzhou in China, San Mateo and Bellevue in the US, Moscow in Russia, Tel Aviv in Israel, and Singapore, the labs will focus on both foundational and disruptive technology research including data intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), fintech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction.

Within those broad research areas, the labs will focus on topics such as machine learning, network security, visual computing, and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Meanwhile, Alibaba hopes to collaborate and explore technology breakthroughs through the Academy in a bid to improve the lives of technology end-users and boost the efficiency and security of enterprises globally. It already has plans to work with the University of California, Berkeley through its RISE Lab on areas such as secured real-time computing.

"The Alibaba DAMO Academy will be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partner," explains Zhang. "We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end-users and businesses everywhere."

The Academy is the first major global initiative to focus on developing the global technological capabilities and infrastructure that will enable Alibaba to fulfil its commitment to serve 2bn customers and create 100m job opportunities in 20 years.