Innovation

Chinese AI startups raised $5B in VC funding last year, outpacing the US

Global investments in AI startups increased 150% in 2017, and China is more focused on mature applications than the US is, according to an ABI Research report.

Artificial intelligence (AI) startups in China raised nearly $5 billion in venture capital (VC) funding in 2017, overtaking their US counterparts in yet another part of the AI race, according to a Monday report from ABI Research.

Overall investments in AI startups increased 150% globally year-over-year in 2017, growing from $4 billion in 2016 to $10.7 billion last year, the report found.

AI startups in the US raised $4.4 billion from 155 investments. Meanwhile, Chinese startups raised $4.9 billion from only 19 investments, indicating a focus on mature AI applications with strong commercial viability and successful use cases, the report noted.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

The Chinese government has also made AI a priority, laying out a major policy plan calling for the nation to become the world's primary AI innovation center by 2030, attracting more investment in AI startups, the report noted. The largest Chinese investments were made in personalized apps, as well as in facial recognition technologies, the report found.

"The bullish sentiment shared among Chinese investors is a clear sign that China is going all-in in artificial intelligence," said Lian Jye Su, principal analyst at ABI Research. "The government of China is setting clear policy guidelines for the future development of AI, and startups are responding with cutting edge AI technologies across many industries."

China is also heavily investing in developing AI talent, and, since 2014, has produced more research papers on deep learning per year than any other nation, according to the MIT Technology Review. While AI chips have been a challenge for the nation, two companies raised $100 million each in 2017 to design and manufacture purpose-built AI chipsets for machine vision, the report found. Launching a "Made in China" chipset is a major priority for the government.

However, other areas are still making headway in the AI space, the report found. European nations are taking a long-term strategic approach to AI investments, with startups in the area exploring use cases in cybersecurity, digital identification, public safety, healthcare, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The US, meanwhile, is taking a more balanced approach, investing in both short-term projects, which could translate into immediate commercial opportunities, as well as long-term, transformative technologies in sectors like automotive, agriculture, and finance, according to the report.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Global investments in AI startups increased 150% globally year-over-year in 2017, from $4 billion to $10.7 billion. — ABI Research, 2018
  • AI startups in China raised $4.9 billion, while those in the US raised $4.4 billion. — ABI Research, 2018

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Image: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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