China offers AI vouchers to start-ups

Translate from : Kina tilbyder AI-kuponer til start-ups
China is supporting AI startups with 'computing vouchers' to mitigate chip shortages caused by US restrictions. Subsidies will help companies deal with rising data center costs.

China is taking steps to level the playing field for its artificial intelligence startups as the country's tech giants harvest AI training compute resources already squeezed by US chip restrictions. At least 17 cities, including the largest, Shanghai, have pledged to provide "compute vouchers" to subsidize AI startups facing rising data center costs as supplies of crucial chips become scarcer.

According to official announcements, the value of vouchers will typically be between $140,000 and $280,000. They can be used in time in AI data centers to train and run the companies' Large Language Models that understand and generate natural language and perform a wide range of tasks. Industry insiders say this move comes after Internet companies with cloud computing services canceled contracts as stricter US controls prompted them to "restrict the use of the GPU units to their own internal use.


Internet giants Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance have taken steps to limit the rental of Nvidia's graphics processing units, reserving the majority of these stored AI processors for internal use and key customers. China has tightened access to crucial AI chips over the past two years, prompting companies to hoard the chips, use Nvidia gaming chips or take them from the black market.

In the upcoming program of AI groups using domestic chips, Beijing will further try to replace foreign components. China has also created an alternative to Big Tech's data centers and cloud services. Over the past year, a network of government data centers and online platforms where AI companies can rent computing power has been built.

"Chinese governments are dedicated to improving resource allocation efficiency," said Charlie Chai, an analyst at research group 86Research, referring to Beijing's plan to build 10 data center clusters. While the subsidies will reduce costs for AI companies, analysts say they will only solve part of the problem.

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There are still strict requirements for applicants. Beijing has approved at least 40 major language models for public use as regulators speed up the adoption of AI technology while maintaining strict oversight of its use.

Traces of China's black market chip trading can be found on trading platforms that mediate access to cloud computing resources. For example, the Suzhou trading platform, which cooperates with AliCloud and Tencent Cloud, advertises compute clusters with advanced Nvidia H100 chips, which the US has always banned from selling to China.

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