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Today in stalking British AI startups: The Chinese are coming

First Google comes sniffing around, now it's bags of dosh from China

British AI talent is about to be given a boost after Founders Factory, a company specialising in growing startups, announced today that it will receive a “multimillion pound” investment from a top Chinese private equity firm.

CSC Group is one of China’s largest private equity firms, specialises in tech investment, and has previously pumped $400m into AngelList, an US startup accelerator.

Now, the firm is turning its attention to the UK. CSC has agreed to a five-year deal with Founders Factory to invest in and scale five AI startups and co-create two new companies every year.

“The partnership will build a bridge between AI talent in Europe and China; giving Founders Factory startups access to the Chinese market and Chinese talent the opportunity to enter the European tech ecosystem,” Founders Factory said.

The push to launch new AI companies will be headed by Brent Hoberman, co-founder and executive chairman of Founders Factory. The AI incubator will be based in east London, near East London Tech City - London's answer to Silicon Valley.

Hoberman said the deal was significant as it was for “one of the most coveted, yet hard[est]-to-access markets on the planet”, and is proof that the UK is recognised as a “centre of excellence for AI”.

The UK is home to many AI companies that have been spotted by some of the biggest technology businesses hoping to accelerate their efforts in AI.

The biggest success story is DeepMind. Four years after it was founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman, it was eyed up by Google for £400m. Google DeepMind has gone on to become one of the most notable AI companies after it built AlphaGo, a software that learned to play Go by using a neural network.

Google DeepMind made headlines after AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, a top player at Go, over five games.

Last year, Apple snatched up VocalIQ, a company specialising in speech recognition technology, to beef up Siri. This year, Microsoft bought SwiftKey for its predictive software keyboard for $250m and Twitter acquired Magic Pony, a machine learning company to analyse videos posted on the social media website. ®

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