A private equity fund backed by the Chinese government has unveiled plans to invest tens of millions of pounds in Western European startups seeking to build a “decentralised data economy”.
The fund, CZ investments, announced today that it will be launching a new accelerator programme for firms building decentralised data projects that could wrest back power from the US tech giants.
Xiao Ma, a senior fellow at Warwick University and the founder of HAT Data Exchange, will be joining its investments board to oversee funding for the new programme. Dubbed HAT Accelerator, the programme aims to fund and grow startups looking to build products based on “Hub of All-Things” micro-servers, which let users collect and store data wherever it’s created.
The micro-servers, HATDeX claims, could be provided to citizens by governments, hospitals, financial services or technology providers and may be used to re-share data from one app with another, if the user consents to do so.
“Dr. Ma’s role with CZ Investments will prioritize the collection, use, and utilization of personal data around the technology end-user, the citizen, to enable new services like personalised products, preventative and on-demand medicine, sophisticated machine learning algorithms, and pervasive IoT,” the statement reads.
“Dr. Ma is excited to be a part of the new capital deployment and is looking forward to helping European companies to better expand into the Chinese market.”
The Chinese government owns “more than” a 10 per cent stake in the CZ Investments, according to the release. The fund is based in China and claims to have “an expanding presence globally”.
Granting citizens greater control over their data is often cited as a way to wrest back power from US tech giants such as Google and Facebook. But some might be surprised to see the Chinese government lending its support to the scheme.
In recent months, the government has faced increasing scrutiny over its approach to citizens’ digital liberties. In addition to limiting access to non-Chinese websites, it has embarked upon creating a nationwide social credit score that ranks citizens based on their behaviour both online and offline.
Russ Shaw, the founder of Tech London Advocates, said Chinese capital represents “a golden opportunity for British tech businesses”, but cautioned that the sector must “stay vigilant when it comes to overseas investment in data businesses”. He added: “China is only going to increase its stake in the global tech sector, especially in AI and Machine Learning.”