Chinese internet giant Baidu reportedly set aside CNY1 billion ($140.7 million) to fund home-grown developers, as part of a wider plan to integrate its Ernie generative AI system into products developed by the companies.

Reuters reported the company also plans to set up a process which will see developers compete to create applications based on its ChatGPT-like model or deploy the technology within their existing portfolio.

The funding will be used to invest in the winners of the programme. Baidu’s partners including private equity company IDG Capital will also take part in the evaluation of pitches from start-ups.

Baidu CEO Robin Li previously described generative AI as a growth opportunity, claiming the technology will become “a traffic gateway for people to seek information and content”.

The company launched its generative AI model Ernie in China in March, a move followed by rival Alibaba Group, which unveiled its own platform last month in an attempt to rival US giants.