If You Want to be the Best, Learn From the Best: ITMO University Collaborates with Alibaba Cloud University

A special delegation from ITMO University visited Hangzhou Dianzi University (HDU) in China last week. They also visited the Alibaba office, whose founder, Jack Ma, is an HDU graduate. As a result of the visits, a preliminary agreement was made with Alibaba Cloud University for a summer school with ITMO University and HDU, which will run this summer in Hangzhou. As such, ITMO students will have an opportunity to get the latest knowledge from professionals from one of the largest high tech companies in the world at one of the best universities in China. 

Hangzhou Dianzi University (HDU)

HDU is one of the largest public universities in China. The university is known as “The Cradle of Entrepreneurs” and currently has an extensive entrepreneurial network worldwide. The most successful graduate is Jack Ma, the founder of the Alibaba Group. There are more than 40 research institutes at the university and more than 2000 researchers, lecturers and employees. HDU is managed directly by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and also the local government. One of the key areas of training at the University is electrical engineering and computer technology.

HDU is a “city within a city”, explains Sergey Chepinskiy, Associate Professor from the Department of Control Systems and Computer Science, about his experience of visiting the Chinese university. Each faculty has a separate building. The administrative building, library, and cafeteria are all stand-alone buildings. HDU has its own infrastructure with parking, a medical center and security. There is a very large sports complex with outdoor and indoor training grounds. Nearby there is also living areas for students. The campus is designed in a traditional oriental style, there is even a small lake.

In my opinion, a very comfortable environment has been created for students and staff to study and work effectively. ITMO University has a chance to use this experience in order to create a similar academic atmosphere when constructing ITMO Highpark. Moreover, HDU has an excellent research infrastructure, which makes it easier for the staff to be involved in solving current scientific issues. HDU is quite a “young” university, having its 60th anniversary last year. However, its achievements have already attracted a lot of attention. For example, HDU is in the top 5 strongest universities in the Zhejiang province, the most economically developed province in China. It is constantly striving to improve and dynamically develop, which is what makes it similar to ITMO University,” comments Sergey Chepinskiy.

ITMO University Delegation at Hangzhou Dianzi University
ITMO University Delegation at Hangzhou Dianzi University

ITMO University and HDU are united by common values. Both institutions strive to support talented student and staff, improve the quality of education, and are open to collaboration.  The drivers of growth are also similar: working with young people, readiness for change, and desire to change the world for the better. This is what also makes the future summer school even more promising. Moreover, the two universities have already organized a summer school before, with the School of Computer Technologies and Control, in 2017. Both Chinese and Russian students participated in the summer school. Holding Alibaba Cloud University’s courses at this new summer school is the next and more large-scale development of partnerships between the universities; and what’s more, this time the project involves a large influential industrial partner.

Alibaba Cloud University

Alibaba Cloud University was created in 2016 and is engaged in teaching practical skills to Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as further training of engineers and lecturers, with all graduates receiving an Alibaba Certificate. Currently, the organization collaborates with 300 universities in China and 20 in the world.

Alibaba Cloud University courses are taught by employees of the Alibaba Cloud company, the main office of which is in the city of Hangzhou. The company provides services for “cloud business”, that is, businesses that prefer to use cloud services for storing and processing data and other processes. Alibaba Cloud resources include big data analysis tools, as well as artificial intelligence technologies. In addition, the company offers various technological models such as SaaS, when customers get ready-made application software that is based on cloud platforms and is fully serviced by the provider. Along with Amazon Web services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, Alibaba Cloud is amongst the largest cloud technology providers in the world.

The company’s courses include classes on cloud computing, big data analysis, information security and cloud platform stability. Lecturers also offer classes on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

ITMO University Delegation at Hangzhou Dianzi University
ITMO University Delegation at Hangzhou Dianzi University

If you want to become stronger, you have to train with a strong partner. Alibaba Group is one of the world’s leaders, and its founder is the richest man in China. Supporting and servicing its industry, Alibaba attracts the best solutions, technology and professionals. Thus, by learning from the company’s staff you are getting the latest knowledge relevant to the ever-changing world” - comments Sergey Chepinsky.

Among the mentors for Alibaba's courses at the University of Singapore were Brian Wong, Vice President of the Alibaba group, Joey Tan, Head of Global Strategic Initiatives of Alibaba Cloud, and many other world-class experts. Moreover, Alibaba and the University of Singapore already created a joint research center, which will also become the long-term goal of Alibaba-ITMO partnership after the completion of the summer school in Hangzhou, explains Daria Kozlova, ITMO’s First Vice Rector.  

There is no doubt that Alibaba experts are leaders in the high-tech industry, so it is important for our university to learn from them as we develop our partnerships.  Moreover, we have common strategic values with Alibaba. For example, recently Jack Ma created such concepts as “creative index” and “love index”. This is what distinguishes a person from a machine and allows people, regardless of the progress of technology, to be one step ahead of computers. In one of his recent speeches, he talked about changing our approach to teaching. The development of soft skills will play a larger role -  skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, creativity. Today, in a time of automation and at the heyday of high tech, only people with these skills will be able to succeed, and ITMO University’s strategy is to help students develop these skills and their attitude towards their work”, commented ITMO University’s First Vice Rector.

Amongst Alibaba’s major values are: customer first, teamwork, embrace change, integrity, passion for their work and commitment. These values allow a person to succeed while loving what they do.

Technology that will change economics and the labour market according to Jack Ma

Jack Ma
Jack Ma

As a leader in technology solutions for business, in the next 20 years Alibaba Group intends to focus on five big new trends of the future economy, which are likely to also become important for many other companies. Universities may also focus on these trends so as to give their students the necessary skills for the markets of the future. They were defined by Jack Ma. These are the fields:

New Retail – the merging of online shopping and traditional shopping chains. New technologies provide an opportunity for the development of new markets for small business products, so the initiative will move from large networks to small businesses.

New Finance – the creation of new payment and credit systems for small and medium-sized businesses based on big data analysis, which will significantly save time. For example, in Hangzhou there are already coffee shops and stores that work without a cashier, where all purchases are made with the help of applications.

New Manufacturing – changing the communication system between customer and supplier. Now, companies offer products based on customer preferences, but in the future the client will determine the characteristics of the goods.  This will require changes in the production and logistics systems.

New Technology – over the next three years, $15 billion will be allocated to creating a new R&D initiative by Alibaba DAMO Academy (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, Outlook). Research within the Academy will focus on the study of big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. This initiative implies collaboration with global universities from all over the world.

NewEnergy – cloud technology, big data and the Internet of things will become the new drivers of economic development and will force businesses change.

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