Graphcore aims at European AI supply chain with German deal

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

UK chip designer Graphcore has signed a deal with German framework provider Aleph Alpha in a move that strengthens a strategic supply chain for AI technology in Europe.

The European Union has highlighted the strategic need for such a supply chain from European suppliers rather than being reliant on AI from US companies such as Nvidia.

Graphcore will work on the research and deployment of Aleph Alpha’s advanced multi-modal models on current Bow IPU systems and its next-generation Good Computer. This will see engineers from both companies working on pre-training, fine-tuning, and inference of next generation multi-modal language and vision models.

Aleph’s Luminous AI model has up to 200bn+ parameters for engineers working in a wide range of language and vision fields such as image recognition, knowledge management, document processing, text generation as well as powerful conversational AI applications using a multi-modal approach.

The availability of a world-leading model built in Germany, running on hardware and software systems from a UK-based company offers a very tangible example of what a successful European AI ecosystem might look like, says Graphcore. Together the two companies have raised over €700m of investment.

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“A big driver for today’s groundbreaking AI-capabilities has been the scale-up in compute and I expect further improvements with new hardware generations. However, innovation here is not only about raw compute power, but also about architectures and methods that are significantly helped or prohibited by the available AI accelerator hardware,” said Jonas Andrulis, CEO & Founder at Aleph Alpha which is based in Heidelberg.

“Graphcore’s IPU offers a new opportunity to evaluate advanced technological approaches such as conditional sparsity. These architectures will undoubtedly play a role in Aleph Alpha’s future research,” he said.

“In a field previously dominated by hyperscalers and large labs, Aleph Alpha has quickly established itself as a leading player in the development of big, multi-modal AI models. We are delighted to be working with their talented team to co-optimise our technology roadmap,” said Nigel Toon, Graphcore Co-founder and CEO.

GraphCore has its own AI framework technology, called Poplar.

As part of the same strategic approach, Graphcore has been working with French supercomputer maker Atos as well as supercomputer chip designer SiPearl.

It is also installing its Bow system at the EPCC supercomputing centre at the University of Edinburgh that is home to the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, ARCHER2.

EPCC’s first Bow Pod system will sit in the Edinburgh International Data Facility (EIDF), private cloud service for the UK and Scottish Government-funded Data Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme. The EPCC says it is also looking at the next generation Good exascale computer as a possible installation.;

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