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Microsoft becomes OpenAI’s official cloud partner after $1bn investment

Microsoft has invested $1bn into an artificial intelligence research centre founded by some of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile figures.

OpenAI was launched by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Y Combinator’s Sam Atlman (pictured) and Stripe’s Greg Brockman in 2015 amid concerns about the threat AI poses to humanity.

In return for its 10-figure investment, Microsoft will become the exclusive cloud provider to OpenAI. The centre’s researchers will build a new computational system on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, while using the company as its “preferred partner” for monetising new technologies.

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive (pictured). “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, added: “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed.”

Advances in AI have so far been confined to narrow fields such as computer vision and natural language processing, but tech companies in the US and China are pumping billions into the development of AGI.

The investment in OpenAI will pit Microsoft against DeepMind, an AI research unit based in London and acquired by Google in 2014 for $400m.