Reports: China’s Alibaba Shuts Down Quantum Lab

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Insider Brief

  • Media and insiders report that Alibaba’s quantum laboratory has closed down.
  • Some reports suggest more than two dozen employees have been fired.
  • Many experts are speculating whether this move is a reaction to the company’s underlying financial woes, or a sign of weakness in the quantum industry as a whole.
  • Image: Alibaba Group Headquarters, Thomas LOMBARD, designed by HASSELL, architects. Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China

Chinese media and anonymous industry insiders with connections to China are reporting that Alibaba’s quantum laboratory, which began with considerable fanfare about three years ago, has been closed down.

DoNews reported this week that Alibaba’s DAMO Academy –Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook —  has closed down its quantum laboratory due to budget and profitability reasons. The budget ax claimed more than 30 people — possible among China’s brightest quantum researchers — lost their positions, according to the news outlet’s internal sources. For further claims of proof, DoNews reports that the official website of DAMO Academy has also removed the introduction page of the quantum laboratory.

According to the story, translated into English: “Insiders claimed that Alibaba’s DAMO Academy Quantum Laboratory had undergone significant layoffs, but it was not clear at that time whether the entire quantum computing team had been disbanded.”

Media further suggest that many of the DAMO Academy quantum team members who were laid off have begun to send their resumes to other companies.

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According to The Quantum Insider’s China’s Quantum Computing Market brief, Alibaba is a diverse tech conglomerate that has been active in quantum since 2015. The company’s Quantum Lab Academy teaching employees and students about the prospects of quantum computing. Alibaba’s Quantum Laboratory is a full-stack R&D service offering an 11-qubit quantum cloud platform. According to some reports, Alibaba invested about $15 billion into emerging technologies such as quantum.

What’s not immediately clear is the scope of the closure. Industry experts wonder whether this is a sign that the move could portend a larger, if note global, quantum tech downturn. However, at least initial indicators suggest Alibaba’s move might be a necessary, but practical tactic to stem Alibaba’s shaky business position. Yahoo Finance reported that Alibaba’s stock crashed last week, losing $26 billion in valuation in just two days. The news may also be a sign of underlying weakness in China’s once bustling tech leadership.

What’s next for Alibaba’s once world-leading quantum ambition is unknown.

The media sources repot: “Although it is currently unclear whether Alibaba will continue to choose other teams to attempt quantum R&D in the future, this change still inevitably causes a sense of regret.”

If you found this article to be informative, you can explore more current quantum news here, exclusives, interviews, and podcasts.

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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