Microsoft opens largest AI lab in Shanghai
US company opens largest AI lab in Shanghai
Published: May 16, 2019 07:23 PM

Microsoft Beijing's offices File photo: IC

US technology giant Microsoft Corp has upped the ante in China's artificial intelligence (AI) arena, announcing Wednesday the opening of its largest AI and Internet of Things (IoT) lab in Shanghai, in the latest sign technology cooperation across the Pacific remains unfazed by escalated trade tensions between China and the US.

The lab in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, which is Microsoft's second in the Asia-Pacific region following the 2016 launch of its lab in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, is intended to incorporate AI and IoT technology into manufacturing, retail, medical, finance and urban construction. The Shanghai lab will provide wide-ranging resources that include application scenario innovation and talent training, Microsoft said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday. 

Since March, the Shanghai lab has received applications from nearly 300 companies and partners, and 30 businesses were eventually selected as the first batch to join the lab, according to Microsoft. Among the first batch of companies are 21 Shanghai-based start-ups. 

"Qualified enterprises can receive seven stages of end-to-end guidance and support," the statement said. These are creative incubation, design and research and development (R&D), tests and experiments, prototype production, technical support, market cooperation and operational guidance.

Microsoft's latest move apparently indicates a continuation of teamwork between Chinese and US businesses in the technology space despite an escalation of the China-US trade row.

There have been signs of closer AI ties between China and the US, the two major powers in the world of AI. For example, US chip giant Intel announced an AI pioneering program at its AI conference in Beijing in November, which includes plans to cooperate with multiple Chinese top universities and research institutions to explore AI trends, and improve the AI discipline in Chinese universities, elementary and secondary schools. 

In a congratulatory letter to the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Education, which opened in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that AI is an important driving force to lead the new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

"China is willing to work with other countries around the world in discussing frontier issues about AI as well as ideas and measures for educational development and innovation against the background of AI's rapid development," Xi stated.

It's not just a case of foreign technology titans raising their research and development stakes in China's AI sector. Major Chinese AI companies have also been moving beyond their home turf when it comes to research commitments. 

Shanghai-based AI unicorn DeepBlue Technology, for instance, has launched joint research facilities with the National Laboratory of Luxembourg, apart from laboratories it has jointly established with domestic institutions including Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

DeepBlue Technology's R&D staff accounts for a majority of its total workforce, which hit nearly 1,000 as of early January, a company spokesperson told the Global Times on Thursday.