Chinese etail giant has launched a Beijing-based accelerator initiative, AI Catapult, to drive its development of blockchain technology.

The Alibaba rival has drafted in its first batch of six different start-ups to develop the technology, including UK-based blockchain payments platform Nuggets.

The online retailer said that the selected start-ups will collaborate with its operational teams to “test real-world applications of their technologies at scale”.

This is the latest in a series of investments in cutting-edge technology from

The Chinese etailer, with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has funded the SAIL JD AI Research Institute, and last year entered a strategic partnership with Walmart and IBM to use blockchain to crack down on food contamination in the Chinese retail supply chain.

The online retailer already uses blockchain in its supply chain to track its products and AI software in its automated sorting warehouses and logistics drones. said that the initiative would “bring not only business benefits but positive social impact as well”. has also drafted in Chinese AI-powered wealth management platform Bankorous, Australia’s blockchain-enabled product verification firm Devery, cryptocurrency marketplace CanYa, Singaporean data store platform Bluzelle and a cryptocurrency exchange start-up Republic Protocol.

The retailer unveiled a tech-powered supermarket chain called 7Fresh in its native China last month and also plans to launch a US ecommerce website by the end of the year. also plans to launch a UK ecommerce platform within the next two years.