CGF invests in £10m seed round of Oriole Networks

Clean Growth Fund has invested in the £10m seed round of Oriole Networks, a new company that revolutionises the performance of AI systems and data centres. The investment was made alongside UCL Technology Fund, XTX Ventures and Dorilton Ventures, and with support from the Innovate UK Investor Partnership.

UCL spinout Oriole Networks was created in 2023 by four founders, Professor George Zervas, James Regan, Alessandro Ottino and Joshua Benjamin, with IP licensed through UCL’s technology transfer company UCLB.

UCL scientists George, Alessandro and Joshua had found a way to use light to connect thousands of AI GPUs directly to each other, resulting in much higher performance. James Regan already had a track record of building successful tech companies from university spinouts, having spun out EFFECT Photonics and built it to $0.5B.

Data centres have played a critical role in the proliferation of SaaS companies and are also supporting the predicted platform shift towards AI. However, the increasing demands placed on data centres and the approach underlying their networking are leading to systemic problems and unsustainable power consumption. With Oriole’s novel approach, Large Language Models can be trained up to a hundred times faster, whilst consuming only a tiny fraction of the power. As a result, machine learning algorithms can run with a thousandth of the latency, revolutionising time critical tasks such as algorithmic trading, and speeding up AI adoption and AI algorithmic progress.

George Zervas, CTO, said: “AI computational needs are increasing by 10 times every 18 months. This leads to distributed training and inference across large numbers of xPUs. Collective data movement across the servers in the data centre becomes a bottleneck which in turn limits the training and inference completion time. This requires a fundamental shift in the co-design of next generation networked systems.”

James Regan, CEO, added: “As the demand for compute continues to increase, it is critical to find new solutions that can address these challenges in a sustainable and carbon efficient manner. Our novel approach to harness the power of light has already demonstrated significant technical performance improvements, up to 100 times speed up in completion time and 40 times improvements in energy consumption.”

Beverley Gower-Jones, Managing Partner of Clean Growth Fund, emphasised the criticality of sustainable development: “The world’s data centres already consume as much electricity as the whole of the UK, and it is rising rapidly, threatening to consume as much as the whole of Europe unless something is done. This radical approach to Net Zero innovation is exactly what is needed.”