Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) plans to more than double its research and development (R&D) outlay to $15 billion over the next three years in a bid to keep pace with technological change and aggressively spending peers.

Speaking at the company's Computing Conference 2017 in Hangzhou, China, Jeff Zhang, Alibaba’s chief technology officer, confirmed that these funds will be used to set up seven research labs and hire 100 scientists across the world. Alibaba’s new global research program will focus its attention on developing artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and quantum computing solutions. Specific fields of interest include machine learning, visual computing and network security.

Called the Alibaba DAMO (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, Outlook) Academy, the program is expected to help the company stay on top of next-generation technologies. Against a backdrop of potentially industry-changing advancements, Alibaba is keen to ensure that it doesn’t fall behind rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd. (TCTZF) and big spender Inc. (AMZN).

To achieve this goal, Alibaba will hire top talent, set up labs in China, the U.S., Russia, Israel and Singapore, fund collaborations with universities and invite professors from prestigious institutions such as Princeton and Harvard to sit on its advisory board.

“The Alibaba DAMO Academy will be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners,” Zhang said at the annual computing conference. “We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end-users and businesses everywhere.”

The decision to open an academy and follow in the footsteps of the likes of International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and other tech giants wasn’t taken lightly. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, said he was initially hesitant about green-lighting the project, which was first proposed to him by his colleagues a decade ago. He eventually changed his mind two weeks ago, claiming that Alibaba is now in a strong enough position to fund the ambitious program. (See also: Alibaba’s Ma, Tsai to Unload Shares: Will it Hurt?)

Alibaba’s investment in its DAMO Academy represents a significant shift from its previous conservative spending patterns. According to Bloomberg, the company spent just $6.4 billion over the past three fiscal years on R&D. Amazon, on the other hand, invested $16.1 billion in R&D last year. (See also: Alibaba May See Unprecedented Growth: Wells Fargo.)

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