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Google’s DeepMind turns first profit as revenues soar

·2-min read
Pioneer: Demis Hassabis, founder of Deepmind, is a London success story (Matt Writtle)
Pioneer: Demis Hassabis, founder of Deepmind, is a London success story (Matt Writtle)

DeepMind, the London artificial intelligence firm owned by Google, turned its first profit last year and saw revenues soar.

Sales at the cutting edge research company rose by £560 million last year to hit £826 million. DeepMind books most of its revenue from research carried out for other companies under the Google umbrella. The company specialises in breaking new ground in AI and machine learning research that can then be commercialised later.

The surge in revenue helped the business turn its first profit of £43.8 million, compared to a loss of £476 million in 2019. Business expenses rose 8% to £779 million.

Kings Cross-headquartered DeepMind was founded in London by former video game developer and child chess prodigy Demis Hassabis in 2010. It quickly developed a reputation as one of the best AI and machine learning research firms in the world and Google bought the business in 2014 for around half a billion dollars.

Google has heavily subsidized DeepMind since the acquisition, which has made cumulative losses of almost £2 billion since 2014. Sales have accelerated rapidly in recent years as the hundreds of millions spent on research has begun to yield results.

DeepMind is perhaps best known for developing AlphaGo, an AI engine that beat the world champion of Chinese board game Go. More controversially, DeepMind struck a deal with NHS hospital trust Royal Free to process data that the Information Commissioner’s Office later found to be unlawful. This week it was reported that a law firm was working on a class action case against DeepMind in relation to the case.

Last year DeepMind debuted AI technology that could predict the shape of a human proteins. The advance has been hailed as a huge breakthrough for drug discovery by scientists. DeepMind last year used an early version of the technology to map the SARS-COVID-19 virus.

Hassabis was among the group of experts called up on by the government for advice as the pandemic first struck last year. Hassabis attended a SAGE meeting in March 2020, reportedly at the request of former government advisor Dominic Cummings.

A DeepMind spokesperson said the company made “significant progress” last year.

“Our groundbreaking results in protein structure prediction were heralded as one of the most significant contributions AI has made to advancing scientific knowledge,” the spokesperson said. “We’re excited to build on this success as we head into next year.”

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