An Oxford company has raised seed funding of £9.4 million to develop high-speed chips using photonics.

Salience Labs says its chips can accelerate exponential advances in artificial intelligence applications. 

The round was led by Cambridge Innovation Capital and Oxford Science Enterprises, with Oxford Investment Consultants, former CEO of Dialog Semiconductor Jalal Bagherli, Silicon Catalyst, the Goh Family Office in Singapore and Arm-backed Deeptech Labs participating.

The company says the speed of AI computation doubles every three and a half months, outpacing the capabilities of existing semiconductor technologies.

Salience Labs was spun-out of the University of Oxford and the University of Münster in 2021 to commercialise an ultra high-speed multi-chip processor that packages a photonics chip together with standard electronics. 

It says the technology is highly scalable, capable of stacking up to 64 vectors into a beam of light. By using a broad bandwidth of light to execute operations, Salience Labs delivers massively parallel processing performance within a given power envelope.

“The world needs ever faster chips to grow AI capability, but the semiconductor industry cannot keep pace with this demand,” said Vaysh Kewada, CEO and co-founder. 

“We’re solving this with our proprietary ‘on-memory compute’ architecture which combines the ultra-fast speed of photonics, the flexibility of electronics and the manufacturability of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor). 

“This will usher in a new era of processing, where supercompute AI becomes ubiquitous.”

Ian Lane, partner, Cambridge Innovation Capital, said: “Salience Labs brings together deep domain expertise in photonics, electronics and CMOS manufacture. Their unique approach to photonics delivers an exceedingly dense computing chip without having to scale the photonics chip to large sizes.”

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