European technology startups would have more success if they upped stakes for the States—at least, that’s according to British chip designer Graphcore’s chief executive, Nigel Toon.
“We’d probably have it easier if we moved to the U.S.,” he said in an onstage interview at the Bloomberg Technology Summit in London on Tuesday.
Why? Because according to Toon there is just more investment and support for computing technology across the pond.
Toon even went as far as to say that the U.K. and Europe could enter a “century of humiliation” if it failed to invest enough in new technology.
Pointing to China’s mediocre growth during the industrial revolution, he added: “We risk, as the U.K. and Europe, being left behind in this technology war.”
Founded in 2016 as a possible rival to Nvidia in AI chips, Graphcore was one of Britain’s most promising startups when it raised $222 million at a $2.8 billion valuation two years ago. But its value has since plummeted to $204.6 million last year, as revenue tumbled by 46%.
In comparison, Graphcore’s British rival Arm Holdings, which supplies core chip technology to the likes of Apple and Nvidia, went public on the American stock market Nasdaq last month. It sold about 95.5 million shares and was valued at a whopping $65 billion.
Toon blamed his company’s widening losses on the complexities of the new technology, while also criticizing the U.K.’s planned investment into computing as inadequate.
“Countries are like companies at the end of the day,” he said, Bloomberg reported. “You cannot just live on your past.”
U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak wants the country to lead in AI regulation
Toon’s comments come as Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak is set to host the world’s first global AI safety summit next week.
The chief executives of the world’s three major artificial intelligence labs — OpenAI, Google Deepmind, and Anthropic — are all expected to be in attendance. Meanwhile, Tesla owner Elon Musk’s xAI start-up is expected to send a representative.
The summit’s agenda refers to the importance of “responsible capability scaling” — the idea that companies should develop their cutting-edge models according to a set of guidelines — and companies will be asked to publish policies laying out how they are committing to “safe AI development and deployment”.
But as Sunak plans to make Britain a global leader in regulation of the technology, some prominent industry leaders have warned that over-regulation of AI in Europe could slow down progress and leave European startups falling behind.
EU slowing down AI progress
The EU is reportedly within “touching distance” of passing the world’s first laws on artificial intelligence, which could introduce rules for everything from homemade chemical weapons made through AI to copyright theft of music, art and literature.
“The EU AI Act is meant to provide added levels of governance to organizations developing high-risk applications of AI,” Andrew Gamino-Cheong, chief technology officer and co-founder of Trustible, an AI governance management platform told the Banker.
“For those in higher-risk categories, the Act will purposefully slow down AI development to ensure proper testing on safety, fairness, privacy, and other considerations are taken into account before deploying a model,” he added.
And many notable figures in tech think that’s a good thing: Billionaire tech mogul Musk, for one, has repeatedly called for a pause in the development of AI until it’s regulated for the sake of humanity. Likewise, the “Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton quit his top Google gig to warn the public about the “existential risk” posed by digital intelligence, earlier this year.
But ultimately, even though the law has been designed to restrict big tech companies, the same restrictions will still apply to Europe’s much smaller startups.
The added red tape will not only give business owners a headache when trying to comply with it, but as Toon predicted, might tempt them to leave the continent altogether.
“European innovation will get hurt. Suddenly it’ll turn out you’ll have to comply with so many regulations and, as a startup, you can’t even afford to have a lawyer,” Piotr Mieczkowski, Digital Poland’s managing director told Sifted.
“You’ll tell a VC that you’ll need $1m for a start to understand what’s going on — they’d rather pay the same in the U.S., and everything will be tested on the spot, with no regulations.”