News Release

NTU Singapore and Alibaba continue investing in local students to create solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges

Business Announcement

Nanyang Technological University

The Hive at NTU Singapore

image: The Hive, a 24 hour study hub for students at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore view more 

Credit: NTU Singapore

To nurture R&D talents in Artificial Intelligence and other related areas, Alibaba Group and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) announce that the Alibaba Talent Programme (ATP) will continue for a fourth year to support outstanding undergraduate and masters’ graduates to pursue their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees.

The ATP in NTU sponsors Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents to pursue their postgraduate degrees in computer science disciplines at NTU Singapore, while completing an industrial R&D project at Alibaba.

This provides a unique opportunity for students to have hands-on experience at one or more of Alibaba’s research facilities, including the Alibaba-NTU Singapore Joint Research Institute (JRI), Alibaba’s first facility of its kind outside of its China headquarters. Each PhD candidate is mentored by at least one supervisor from NTU, and one co-supervisor from Alibaba.

New applicants can join the program in its Semester 1 intake in August 2022 or Semester 2 intake in January 2023.

ATP is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board’s Industrial Postgraduate Programme (IPP), which aims to provide postgraduate students with industry-relevant training in partnership with various industry partners and institutes of higher learning.

To date, the Alibaba-NTU JRI has attracted over 2500 applicants for the IPP PhD Programme, of 65 Singaporeans and SPRs were selected.

Professor Lam Khin Yong, Senior Vice President (Research), NTU, said: “In February 2018, the JRI was established to focus on the human-centered research and development in emerging computing technologies that supports Singapore’s ambitious Smart Nation initiative and its industrial transformation.  By hosting the ATP students at JRI, we hope to develop budding talents that will be future captains of the digital economy.”

Dr Derek Wang, General Manager, Singapore, of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, said: “Almost everyone is in some way or form already living in the digital reality today. As a digital leader, it is part of our mission to make technology more inclusive and accessible for all in Singapore or anywhere in the world. The potential for digital technologies to create new value for business and society is bigger than we can imagine, and we hope to support Singapore’s role in realizing that potential.”

Helping local students go further, faster

In addition to working with real business intelligence and tools from Alibaba Group’s 12 different business units, students are also closely guided and supported by mentors from Alibaba Group, each a leading researcher in their field such as visual AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP), edge computing and autonomous driving.

Under their mentors’ supervision, previous and current students in the ATP programme have been given opportunities to bring their ideas to life. For instance, students have used medical imaging analysis and machine learning to predict the likelihood of dementia and Parkinson’s disease in seniors, created digital twins of data centers that can replicate wind flow and temperature changes to facilitate research in effective cooling methods, and advanced autonomous driving-related projects.

Professor Chunyan Miao, Director, Alibaba-NTU Singapore Joint Research Institute, NTU, said: “Tapping into our world-renowned faculty and existing partnerships with Alibaba Cloud, the ATP strived to equip the selected students with critical knowledge and skills in cloud computing, big data and AI – technologies that are fueling our increasingly digitalised world and key drivers to fulfill Singapore’s Smart Nation ambitions.”

Mr Bryan Lim Wei Yang, PhD Candidate at the Alibaba-NTU Joint Research Institute, who is also the recipient of the inaugural Alibaba-NTU JRI Most Promising IPP Student Award 2022, said: “What I appreciate most from being part of this programme is being able to work on actual anonymized data sets. This allows us to develop more accurate solutions to problems we are facing. Being able to analyse data effectively is also another problem we face today and I’m glad to learn from the best in Alibaba on how to do so effectively via big data and machine learning methodology, among others.”

Mr Jiang Hongchao, PhD Candidate at the Alibaba-NTU Joint Research Institute, said: “I want to make a difference by creating solutions that can actually be applied to real-world use cases rather than just engage in theoretical research. Working with the mentors in Alibaba who are all hard at work translating theory into practice has been immensely inspirational, and vastly shortened the learning curve for us to bring our own ideas to life.”

Currently, more than 70 translational research projects – projects “translating” research findings into practical applications – have been initiated, with over 140 research papers published by the IPP students and staff from JRI.

Going forward, the JRI will expand its research undertakings that promote the advancement of sustainable development. By employing AI and cloud technologies, the JRI endeavours to play a key role in enabling new innovations and solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals as identified by the United Nations.

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