China’s top e-commerce firm, Alibaba, is launching a $15 billion drive to build overseas research hubs as the deep-pocketed firm looks to compete with global leaders in e-commerce, logistics and cloud technology. The Alibaba ‘Damo’ academy would launch eight research bases in China, Israel, the United States, Russia and Singapore and was hiring 100 researchers to work on artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and fintech, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. The Chinese giant and its affiliates have undergone a rapid expansion in the past year, bringing it into direct competition with US e-retailer Amazon.com as well as global payments, cloud and logistics firms. According to Reuters, since last year Alibaba has invested roughly $2 billion to acquire a majority stake in Singapore-based retailer Lazada.com, creating a network of e-commerce hubs across Southeast Asia in partnership with payment affiliate Ant Financial. It has also pursued a $1.2 billion bid for US money transfer service MoneyGram.