JD.com center
Image: JD.com Service Center, Wikimedia

JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce companies, has launched a new accelerator program called AI Catapult that focuses on blockchain and artificial intelligence startups.

Based in Beijing, AI Catapult will start with an inaugural roster of companies that include Bluzelle, a blockchain startup based in Singapore providing database services, Bankorus, a leading Chinese robo-advisory provider, CanYa, an Australian cryptocurrency startup, Nuggets, a London-based e-commerce payments and ID platform built on blockchain technology, Republic Protocol, an open source decentralized dark pool exchange, and Devery, a blockchain-powered product verification protocol.

JD.com said the purpose of the program is to partner with innovation startups to build new businesses and create real-world applications of their technologies at scale.

Uri Ferruccio, the director of strategy and investment for JD.com’s AI Platform and Research Division, said AI Catapult “will support JD.com as it explores how AI can improve the scalability, security, privacy and efficiency of blockchain, and enable novel and improved applications in areas such as distributed AI.”

Bowen Zhou, vice president of JD.com’s AI Platform and Research Division, added:

“We are excited to work with some of the world’s most innovative startups to explore ways we can scale these cutting edge technologies for the future of retail and other industries, as well.”

The program will begin in March and will provide selected startups with the opportunity to cooperate with business units throughout JD.com’s retail business and implement their technologies.

The firm also plans to invest in the growth of the AI and blockchain ecosystem through future commercial, strategic and research partnerships.

JD.com already uses blockchain technology in its supply chain to track products and AI to control its logistics drones and automated package sorting centers. The firm joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance earlier this month to explore the use of blockchain for global freight and logistics. It is also working with Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies on blockchain applications for food tracking, traceability and safety in China.

JD.com has over 266 million customers and recorded 658.2 billion RMB, or about US$100 billion, in gross merchandise value in 2016.

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