German luxury carmaker BMW and Chinese internet giant Alibaba are expanding their partnership to help foster new technology startup companies in China, according to local reports.

The two companies said they would invest in a new jointly owned innovation centre in Shanghai, with a view to funding and commercialising mobility sector technology at an earlier stage of development.

The new centre aims to help nurture up to 300 new startup companies in its first three years of operation.

Both BMW and Alibaba would bring their respective areas of expertise to the innovation centre and would work together in identifying and nurturing new companies operating in mobility-related cloud computing, digitilisation and future automotive technology. 

The new centre in particular would seek out companies looking to develop internet based automotive services, software and cloud based products.

It would also offer managers of startup companies technical training and consulting services, provide office space for up to 30 companies and provide funding services for up to 20 companies.

BMW China chief executive officer Jochen Goller said: “the auto industry is undergoing a major transformation driven by technological development.

“In the midst of industrial upgrading and transformation, we need to keep an open mind and to collaborate with outstanding Chinese innovation powerhouses in order to scale new technologies for future mobility.”

China is BMW’s largest single market and a key manufacturing base for the company.

The automaker has been working with Alibaba since 2018 when it introduced the Tmall Genie voice assistant.