Oxford University spinout Lumai secures £1.1m Innovate UK Smart Grant to power optical computing revolution

  • Oxford start-up to bring optical neural networks to the UK market, which can be 1000x faster than traditional approaches

London, UK, 16th February 2023: Lumai, the start-up unlocking the potential of optical computing, today announced that it has been awarded a prestigious Innovate UK Smart Grant to commercialise its ground-breaking work in all-optical network training and deep optics for faster, more efficient computing.

Spinning out of The University of Oxford in January 2022, Lumai is developing all-optical neural networks for next-generation artificial intelligence (AI). With £1.1m in Smart funding won, the company is creating advanced optical computing processors where the information flow and calculations are not dependent on electronic processing. The Grant was awarded in conjunction with The University of Oxford, and follows its previous funding from IP Group plc, the developer of world-changing science and technology businesses, and Runa Capital, the Luxembourg-headquartered global venture capital firm.

Existing transistor-based digital electronics are struggling to support the potential offered by AI, especially with the explosive increase of computation demand to support breakthrough AI models such as ChatGPT. To combat this, Lumai’s computing platform is capable of energy-efficient and ultra-fast, parallel processing. Lumai’s optical neural networks can be 1000x faster – and much more sustainable – than existing transistor-based digital electronics.

The funding will support Lumai in building and launching optical neural networks for high-performance computing and machine vision, while simultaneously leading developments in advanced optical technologies.

Tim Weil, CEO at Lumai, commented: “The Innovate UK Smart Grant win is a testament to the team’s vision and passion to create optical computers that are significantly faster and consume less energy than traditional electronics. After spinning out from The University of Oxford, it’s fitting that we work together on the Innovate UK project to further enhance the capabilities of these advanced optical systems. We’re excited to be bringing Lumai’s game changing technology to the world, and we look forward to making our mark on the UK market and beyond.”

Prof. Alex Lvovsky, co-founder of Lumai and award-winning expert in optical computing, added: “There is vast potential for optical neural networks,  and the backing from Innovate UK – alongside investment from IP Group plc and Runa Capital – will help us to develop our vision to build ONNs and deliver on the huge potential of optical computing.”

Innovate UK’s Smart Grant has focused eligibility criteria and scope to support SMEs and their partners to develop disruptive innovations with significant potential for rapid, economic return to the UK. Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing, and world leading ideas, designed for swift, successful commercialisation.

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