Chinese speech recognition company iFlytek, which has featured in MIT’s list of smartest companies, has reportedly announced an RMB1.02 billion ($150 million) fund to invest in software and hardware startups that look to apply artificial intelligence in consumer electronics, healthcare and other industries.
The fund will target startups that have core technologies but lack the business know-how, or companies that have performed well in commercialising products but are unable to integrate AI into their devices, according to local media reports.
In addition, iFlytek also plans to launch more incubators in Beijing, Shenzhen and Tianjin, adding to its existing ones in Changchun, Luoyang, Hefei and Chongqing.
Having focused on voice recognition technology over the past 18 years, the company will provide its experience and know-how to partner with local governments across the country to facilitate China’s strategy of promoting frontier tech.
Due to the increasing use of AI in many traditional industries, China is now in need of nearly one million AI specialists, the China Daily cited Li Deyi, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Hu Yu, executive president of iFlytek, reportedly said iFlytek will provide startups with software support and financial guidance, as well as hardware components and an online AI curriculum.
The company is also exploring image recognition technology in collaboration with Cambridge University and seeks to expand to the UK.
In September 2016, iFlytek told local media that it would set up a fund to invest in global AI companies, and had already acquired a Japanese English tutor app. In the same month, it led a $100 million funding for home service robot startup ROOBO.