BMW and Alibaba officially opened their new, jointly-owned ‘innovation’ centre in Shanghai as the German automaker looks to step up its digitalisation strategy in China with the collaboration of tech giant Alibaba.

According to BMW, the new centre will serve as an “incubator” to “empower Chinese tech startups with the expertise and resources of the two partners”.

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The centre has set an initial three year target to provide at least 300 companies with advanced cloud computing infrastructure from Alibaba and access to BMW specialists and business units via the BMW Startup Garage. BMW pointed out that the startups need to be focused on developing innovative products, solutions and services that help bridge the internet, the internet of things and the automotive industry.

BMW Group China CEO Jochen Goller said in a statement: “Having become a global innovation power house, China is providing an ever expanding playing field for startup companies, especially in science and technology.” The company added that 20 startups operating in areas such as digitisation, powertrain electrification and sustainability have already agreed to set up office at the new centre.

BMW’s vice-president of new technologies Peter Lehnert told local reporters: “Innovations in the field of digitalisation, smart connectivity, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving are happening at a breath-taking pace in China.”

The decision to jointly build a dedicated R&D centre in Shanghai followed an agreement signed in October 2020 for Alibaba to help BMW “digitalise its full business process” to provide its customers with online services ranging from buying cars and accessing finance to a full range of aftermarket services.