Graphcore’s Intelligent Processing Unit for AI and ML

By William Smith
Bristol, United Kingdom-based startup Graphcore offers a microprocessor specifically designed for AI and machine learning tasks...

Bristol, United Kingdom-based startup Graphcore offers a microprocessor specifically designed for AI and machine learning tasks.

Known as the Intelligent Processing Unit (IPU), the microprocessor has applications in areas such as AI computing in data centres. Traditionally, graphical processing unit-based systems take on the workload of AI training and other tasks thanks to their highly parallel nature, but Graphcore says its offering is capable of offering improved performance.

Since its foundation in 2016, the company has raised around $700mn across six funding rounds. Its latest Series E was its largest to date, raising $222mn alone and launching its valuation to around $2.8bn. The round was led by Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan alongside a raft of existing investors such as Robert Bosch Venture Capital and Dell Technologies Capital, and new investors Fidelity International and Schroders.

In a press release, Graphcore CEO and co-founder Nigel Toon said: "Having the backing of such respected institutional investors says something very powerful about how the markets now view Graphcore. 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 said it would use the funds to drive its expansion globally and further develop its IPU product.

Olivia Steedman, Senior Managing Director, Teachers' Innovation Platform (TIP) at Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, said: "The market for purpose-built AI processors is expected to be significant in the coming years because of computing megatrends like cloud technology and 5G and increased AI adoption, and we believe Graphcore is poised to be a leader in this space."

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