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Intel pledges £90m to 14 startups as it develops investment arm

Intel has pledged to invest a total of $117m (£90m) in 14 technology startups as it seeks to extend its reach across a range of sectors, from healthcare to artificial intelligence.

The funding spree, announced at the Intel Capital Global Summit in Arizona on Monday, comes after the veteran chipmaker vowed to invest at least $300m (£230m) a year in disruptive tech businesses.

Two of the four artificial intelligence startups backed by Intel are based in China, which has quickly emerged as the biggest threat to Silicon Valley’s supremacy in digital technology.

The Chinese government has pledged to invest billions in making China the global leader in AI, and has attracted significant investment from US tech giants, including Google, which opened a research centre in Beijing in 2017.

Cloudpick is one of the Chinese startups backed by Intel and uses computer vision, deep learning and edge computing to provide cashier-free stores that let customers “grab and go”. Another Chinese startup to have secured Intel’s backing is Zhuhai EEasy Technology, a chip design house specialising in AI acceleration, and image and graphic processing.

While Intel’s investment arm is ploughing cash into startups in China, Canada, the UK and Israel, it appears to have reserved the bulk of its funding pot for Californian firms.

Eight of the 12 startups are based in the Golden State. SambaNova Systems has won backing to develop a platform to run AI applications from the data centre to the network edge, while Reveal Bioscience will invest Intel’s cash into its deep-learning platform for pathology.

“These companies are shifting the way we think about artificial intelligence, communications, manufacturing and health care – areas that will become increasingly essential in coming years as the linchpins of a smarter, more connected society,” said the president of Intel Capital Wendell Brooks.

“Our continued goal is to leverage the global resources and expertise of the world’s greatest engineering company, and its ecosystem of customers and partners, to help these founders accelerate growth and innovation.”