Salience Labs was spun out of Oxford and Münster universities in 2021 to commercialise an ultra-high-speed multi-chip processor that packages a photonics chip together with standard electronics. By using light to execute operations, we can deliver massively parallel processing performance – bringing high speed compute to a wide array of new and existing AI processes and applications.
The compute requirements of AI double every 3-4 months, as the world needs ever-faster chips to grow AI capability. The current semiconductor industry can’t keep pace with this demand. What’s required now is not further incremental innovations on transistor technology or chip architecture.
If we are to realise the tremendous potential of AI, nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way we compute will do. One that delivers an immediate step change in performance and speed, while also offering a long-term future roadmap of scaling improvements.
Multi-chip processors – ones that package together several chiplets, often based on different process technologies – are that step-change. It allows us to package electronic chips together with more novel technologies like silicon photonics, resulting in a step-change in performance potential.
Shifting compute and data movement from electronics to the realm of light has exponential potential to improve our processing performance.
What do you think makes this company unique?
While other photonic chip companies execute operations in the phase of light, we use a proprietary amplitude-based approach to photonics, resulting in dense computing chips clocking at 10’s of GHz. Our unique approach allows us to leverage a multi-chip design, with the photonic processing mapping directly on top of the Static Random Access Memory (SRAM).
This novel ‘on-memory compute’ architecture is inherently faster and can be adapted to the application-specific requirements of different market verticals, making it ideal for realising AI use-cases in communications, robotics, vision systems, healthcare and other data workloads.
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How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?
We originally spun-out of the University of Oxford and the University of Münster in 2021 and have just closed our seed round of $11.5 million from a number of leading VCs including Cambridge Innovation Capital, Oxford Science Enterprises and Arm-backed Deeptech Labs participating, plus some leading names in the semiconductor industry including former CEO of Dialog Semiconductor Jalal Bagherli. A
lthough we’ve just closed our seed we’re moving at a fast pace and are already fabricating test chips with a partner foundry.
What can we hope to see from Salience Labs in the future?
We’re at an interesting point where the industry is recognising the potential of silicon photonic compute to solve the tremendous processing bottleneck currently hampering AI growth.
We’re talking to customers across a range of market verticals who are excited about the potential for performance improvements our chips will offer and the new AI processes and applications this will enable. They’re attracted by technology’s ability to adapt to their application-specific requirements and deliver the ultra-fast speed of photonics, the flexibility of electronics and the manufacturability of CMOS.
We welcome any additional approaches from potential customers who are interested in understanding the capabilities of silicon photonics.