The $222m investment in Bristol-based AI chip startup Graphcore was led by Ontario Teachers’ Pensions Plan Board and adds funds managed by Fidelity International and Schroders as new investors. Also participating in this round are existing Graphcore investors, including Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit.
This brings the total funds raised by Graphcore to more than $710m, with over $440m cash on hand to see out the post-pandemic downturn as it scales up its shipments of chips and systems for AI systems in datacentres.
Although not mentioned, the cash in hand will also support the move to 3nm process technology for its third generation chips as a lead customer with foundry TSMC in Taiwan. The current Mk2 ‘intelligence processing unit’ (IPU) is built in a 7nm process and has 59.4bn transistors.
“Having the backing of such respected institutional investors says something very powerful about how the markets now view Graphcore,” said Nigel Toon, CEO and co-founder. “The confidence that they have in us comes from the competence we have demonstrated building our products and our business. We have created a technology that dramatically outperforms legacy processors such as GPUs, a powerful set of software tools that are tailored to the needs of AI developers, and a global sales operation that is bringing our products to market.”
The company this year launched its second generation processor, the GC200, for the IPU-M2000 and IPU-POD64 datacentre compute systems. The previous IPU systems have been used by the University of Massachusetts for modelling the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, showing a 30x speedup compared with CPUs and a significant 7.5x speedup compared with GPUs.
The latest version of its Poplar development environment added full PyTorch support, ensuring that the most widely used machine learning frameworks are now simple to implement on the IPU.
Next: Graphcore on 2021
“With our products, software and global sales operation in place, we expect 2021 to be another big year for the company. Customers are already taking delivery into their datacentres of IPU-M2000 and IPU-POD64 systems,” said Toon.
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