Amsterdam unicorn Bitfury-backed Dutch startup Axelera AI launches new chip for AI edge applications



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Axelera AI, an Eindhoven-based AI semiconductor startup that recently raised approximately €10.16M in funding, announced on Tuesday that it has successfully tested and validated its first chip, the Thetis Core.

The chip was first taped out in December, 2021, with the support of imec.IC-link, a test vehicle demonstrating the high performance and efficiency of the in-memory computing technology developed by Axelera AI.

The in-memory computing engine delivers 39.3 tera operations per second (TOP/s) with an efficiency of 14.1 TOPs/W at an INT8 precision in less than 9 square millimetres. In the case of high-sparsity activations, the peak energy efficiency reaches 33 TOPs/W. Moreover, by increasing the nominal clock frequency, the peak throughput reaches 48.16 TOPs.

Axelera AI co-founder and CTO, Evangelos Eleftheriou, says, “The breakthrough performance of Thetis manifests the efficacy of Axelera’s in-memory computing approach. Such a novel computing paradigm is perfectly timed to meet the stringent operational requirements of the AI applications at the edge. The high-energy efficiency together with the high precision and the versatile software stack will address the user pain points of AI application development at the edge.”

According to a statement from Axelera AI, multiple enhanced versions of the in-memory computing engine will be integrated inside the company’s first product to be announced later this year and will be available in early 2023.

The Thetis Core

“Thetis Core is an important milestone for Axelera AI. It demonstrates that our in-memory computing technology can deliver extremely high throughput, high precision, and efficiency in an extremely compact footprint. This chip, taped out in just a few months, shows the strength of our fast-growing team which has a unique mix of competencies, from analog and digital in-memory computing to dataflow, RISC-V, machine learning and software,” says Axelera AI CEO and co-founder, Fabrizio del Maffeo.

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The company’s software stack will allow customers to run their neural networks and applications efficiently and cost-effectively, without the need to retrain teams on new AI frameworks. Axelera AI cloud and marketplace will also offer off-the-shelf AI solutions for software and hardware developers who need a fast integration of AI in their products.

The Dutch company’s solutions will empower thousands of applications of AI at the edge, making the use of AI more efficient and accessible than before. Its products will be fully integrated with the leading open-sourced AI frameworks when it is launched to select customers and partners in early 2023. The company is also currently raising its Series A fund, expected to close later this year.

Fabrizio del Maffeo says he will share more details about the Thetis Core chip at imec’s flagship event on nanoelectronics advances & deeptech solutions, the 2022 Future Summit. Details on his fireside conversation, scheduled for May 18, can be found here.

Developing a game-changing hardware and software platform for AI

Founded by Bram-Ernst Verhoef and Fabrizio Del Maffeo, Axelera AI is focused on integrating “world-class” hardware and software technologies for edge and cloud-to-edge enterprise solutions.

The company explains on its website, “The world is more interconnected now than ever before. Yet, 98 per cent of the data being collected remains unused due to technology and processing limitations. Bridging this data gap requires a new generation of more powerful, efficient, and accessible computation hardware. With growing privacy, security, and bandwidth concerns in mind, much of this data is increasingly processed close to its origin, or “the edge.” Axelera AI is working to deliver solutions that meet this demand, empowering AI applications at the edge and data centres.”

Axelera AI’s product concentrates the AI computational power of an entire server into a single chip at a fraction of the power consumption and price of AI hardware today. Its products will empower organisations from diverse sectors like smart cities, retail, and markets, to adopt artificial intelligence at scale.

Headquartered in the AI Innovation Center of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Axelera AI also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH), and has a presence in Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Romania. Its team of more than 20 engineers and developers are from well-known AI companies and research centres, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec.

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Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh is a News Reporter and Social Media Marketing Lead at Silicon Canals. He covers developments in the European startup ecosystem and oversees the publication's social media presence. Before joining Silicon Canals, Vishal gained experience at the Indian digital media outlet Inc42, contributing to its growth with insightful content. Despite being a college dropout, his passion for writing has driven his career in journalism.

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