Baidu Launches $145M Venture Capital AI Fund

In a race to dominate the artificial intelligence space, Chinese search engine company Baidu on Wednesday said it will create a venture capital fund of $145 million (1 billion yuan) to back start-ups focused on content generated by AI applications.

The financial backing will provide a springboard to a competition for developers that will help them build applications based on its Ernie large language model (LLM) or integrate the model into their existing products.

Baidu in January said it would launch a GPT-style technology and merge it into its search engines. Then in March the company unveiled Ernie, an AI-powered large language model (LLM). Other Chinese companies quickly followed, such as ecommerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month urged the country’s companies to seize opportunities in AI to modernize the industry at an economic meeting. 

Jinping’s strategic prioritization of AI development in China’s race to become the world’s dominant AI player dates back to 2017, when China's State Council issued a document titled A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. The document, translated into English, outlines a top-level design blueprint charting the country's approach to developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology and applications, setting broad goals up to 2030.

The goal is to create concrete plans for major AI tasks and focus policy measures. “Support the development of a variety of AI scientific activities, encourage the broad masses of scientific and technological workers to join the promotion of AI popular science, and 27 comprehensively improve the level of the whole society on the application of AI,” the document states.

Companies also are encouraged to launch trials, strengthen comprehensive guidance over trials and demonstrations in all departments and all localities, quickly summarize and disseminate replicable experiences and methods. Advance the healthy and orderly development of AI through advance trials and guiding demonstrations.

The document, which provides details about the transition for the country, was translated into English by a group of experienced Chinese linguists with extensive backgrounds on the subject matter, including Rogier Creemers, Leiden Asia Centre; Graham Webster, Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center; Paul Triolo, Eurasia Group; and Elsa Kania.


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