Tuesday 29 December 2020 8:48 am

British chipmaker Graphcore raises $222m as AI rivalry heats up

UK chipmaker Graphcore has raised $222m (£164m) in fresh funding as it gears up for growing demand for its technology.

The series E funding round takes the Bristol-based firm’s valuation to $2.8bn, making it one of the country’s most valuable unicorns. 

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Graphcore specialises in so-called intelligence processing units (IPU) — a form of chip designed to support artificial intelligence. 

The chips are sold through partners such as Microsoft, Dell and Atos for use in industries including finance, healthcare and telecoms.

The latest cash injection brings the total funds raised since Graphcore was founded in 2016 to $710m, and the company has more than $440m of cash on hand to support future growth.

Graphcore said it will use the new investment to support further global expansion and accelerate development of its IPU technology.

It comes as competition heats up in the semiconductor market ahead of an expected surge in demand for AI-capable chips.

Nvidia, one of Graphcore’s main rivals, earlier this year agreed a $40bn deal to acquire British chipmaker Arm.

Graphcore’s latest funding round was led by new investors Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, alongside funds managed by Fidelity International and Schroders. Existing investors including Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit also took part.

“Having the backing of such respected institutional investors says something very powerful about how the markets now view Graphcore,” said chief executive and co-founder Nigel Toon.

“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.”

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Graphcore is now said to be considering an initial public offering in the coming years.

Earlier this month the Telegraph reported that the company was mulling a listing on the Nasdaq — a move that would mark a major blow for the London Stock Exchange.