Shanghai’s municipal government has opened an intellectual property center to serve local and global artificial intelligence (AI) companies and boost China’s metaverse technology potential.
AI is one of the three key industries that the Shanghai government plans to develop over the next decade, along with the biomedical and semiconductor sectors. AI development will also be key to spurring China’s smart vehicle and IT sectors.
An Hui, deputy chief engineer at China Electronics Information Industry Development Academy, said in June this year that China’s AI sector revenues reached 200 billion yuan (US$28 billion) last year and would exceed 600 billion yuan by 2026.
Citing Stanford University’s AI Index 2022 report, An said Chinese studies accounted for 31% of all AI research papers in the world last year, up from 16% in 2020. He said China applied for more than half of the AI patents globally and made significant breakthroughs in areas such as computer models and machine translation.
On the other side of the ledger, the industry requires a strong supply of advanced semiconductors and chip-making equipment, both now under US export sanctions as part of the two sides intensifying tech war.
Some analysts predict China’s AI industry will be slowed by the shortage of high-end chips in the coming years, despite accelerated efforts to indigenously produce cutting-edge semiconductors.
Ray Yang, research director at the Taiwan-based ITRI Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center, noted that the US ban specifically targets the AI chips used in data centers and supercomputers.
Yang said about 80% of the world’s high-end AI-oriented chips are produced in the US while the rest are made in allied countries such as Israel. He said the US has enough legal tools to prevent China from obtaining these semiconductors.
He added that China may be able to find substitutes over the long run, but the products may suffer from lower efficiency.
The new Shanghai AI Intellectual Property Development Center was officially launched during an IP summit organized by the Shanghai government and Shanghai Intellectual Property Services Association (SIPSA) on November 17.
Lei Xiaoyun, a director of the IP Utilization and Promotion Division of the China National Intellectual Property Administration, said the center will help protect local and global AI companies’ intellectual property rights and, in the long run, become a competitive AI industry platform in Shanghai .
The Shanghai government said its newly-opened center will not only provide IP protection services to AI firms but will also join hands with national laboratories and state-owned AI companies to develop new projects to help secure high-value patents.
Huang Yongping, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, said many top AI firms, including Huawei Technologies and Shanghai Qi Zhi Institute, had set up offices in the Xuhui district to form an industry ecosystem in the past five years.
Huang said the Shanghai government had included the development of metaverse technology in its government report to show its determination in supporting China’s digital economy.
Ren Aiguang, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT)’s Technology Department, said in August that Shanghai had accumulated deep knowledge about AI technology and developed rich AI database and application resources. Ren said the MIIT would continue to support Shanghai in developing its AI sector.
That will be difficult without US-made chips, though. On September 2, US chipmaker NVIDIA said it was informed by the US government that it must stop exporting its graphics processing unit (GPU) chips, namely A100 and H100, to China and Russia. The US also restricted sales of AMD’s MI250 Accelerator AI chip to China.
Mainland China-based chip fabs that produce logic chips of 16nm or below, DRAM memory chips of 18nm half-pitch or less, or NAND chips with 128 layers or more will have to apply for licenses to purchase items from the US, according to the curbs announced by the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) on October 7.
On October 23, Bloomberg reported that Taiwan’s TSMC had decided, due to the US curbs, to suspend the production of advanced chips for Shanghai-based Biren Technology, which makes GPUs designed primarily for AI and high-performance computing (HPC).
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