Alibaba to shut down its R&D center in Israel
Alibaba plans to close its Israel research and development center, which currently employs about 40 people, the majority of whom are experts in artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The Israeli R&D center, which is part of Alibaba’s R&D arm Damo Academy, was founded on the backs of acquisitions of local technology firms.
In December 2017, the Chinese tech giant acquired Visualead, which focuses on computer vision technology. The startup developed technology that allows standard mobile phones to do 3-D scanning of actual items, and they offered Alibaba with a solution for the prevention of product forgery by inserting QR codes in photos, animation, and video clips.
About 18 months later, Alibaba bought InfinityAR, a layered reality firm that offers software for ODMs and OEMs and an SDK plug-in for 3D engines.
The shutdown came after it faced frequent personnel exodus. Prof. Lihi Zelnik, the Israeli center’s CEO, and Itamar Friedman, the technology head and founder of Visualead, both left the organization six months ago. Efforts were made at Alibaba to replace the two, but these didn’t come to fruition, said the report, adding that the center has suffered other departures in recent months, in favor of American tech giants.
Alibaba officially established Damo Academy in 2017 and looked to invest more than 100 billion yuan in basic science and disruptive technological innovation research over the next three years.
Currently, its research centers are spread in China, the U.S., Russia, Singapore, and Israel. There have been reports in recent months that Alibaba is planning to cut jobs at the business unit amid macroeconomic headwinds.