China AI startups surge forward with $30bn funding since 2016AI & Surroundings

TOKYO — Fundraising by Chinese artificial intelligence startups has increased rapidly since the Beijing government announced an AI drive in 2016, according to a report compiled by the Chinese tech news portal 36Kr.

China is an AI powerhouse comparable to the U.S., and the report shows that this is due to its homegrown startups.

Unlisted companies alone have raised 203.7 billion yuan ($30.1 billion) since 2016, according to a 2020 report on the development of AI in China, which was compiled by the research unit of 36Kr Holdings. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr in May 2019.

The report tallied funds raised from venture capital and tech company investment into AI-focused, unlisted companies as of June 2020.

A total of 237.8 billion yuan has been invested in AI in China since 1998, with 86% of that since 2016, the year when the government included an AI drive in its new five-year plan, triggering a boom in investment in the sector.

The report also tallied funds by destination city. Beijing, home to many prestigious science universities, ranked first, with about 74 billion yuan of investment. Among the Beijing-based AI startups are Cambricon Technologies, which listed stocks in July, and Horizon Robotics.

Shenzhen came in second, with about 30.6 billion yuan. The report cited the startup UBTech Robotics and the image-processing AI startup Malong Technologies.

Shanghai ranked third, raising 18.4 billion yuan. The independent cloud service company Shanghai Qiniu Information Technologies is one of them.

It is said that there were nearly 100 unicorns — privately held businesses with valuations of at least $1 billion — in China, and that most of them were AI startups. The report details the fundraising by individual startups.

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