Facebook’s latest acquisition shows interest in UK AI industry

Social networking giant Facebook is reportedly acquiring London-based Bloomsbury AI, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) startup.

The company is expected to be paying between $23 - $30 million for its Bloomsbury acquisition, which is also said to involve stock changing hands.

In an official statement, Facebook said:

"The Bloomsbury team has built a leading expertise in machine reading and understanding unstructured documents in natural language in order to answer any question.

Their expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications."

Observers suspect the biggest draw was likely the company’s CTO Sebastian Riedel who is a professor at UCL and is considered a leading expert in NLP.

Facebook plans to use Bloomsbury AI as part of its solution for tackling fake news and similar content problems which have plagued the platform. Indeed, according to Riedel’s LinkedIn profile, he co-founded UK startup Factmata which specialises in tools for combating fake news.

Interest in UK AI startups

Perhaps the bigger story here is the continued interest from Silicon Valley giants in UK AI startups. It barely seems a day goes by without a major UK AI acquisition, mostly by Google-owned DeepMind.

According to research, a new AI startup has been founded every five days in the UK on average since 2014 – so it’s perhaps little surprise there’s high interest.

Facebook reportedly wants to increase its AI presence in the UK and will be sourcing further acquisitions in the country.

"The [Bloomsbury AI] team will help us grow our AI efforts in London, joining a roster of strong engineering talent," said Facebook. "We look forward to welcoming them to Facebook and we can't wait to see what we build together."

04/07 Update: Added statement from Facebook.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s latest acquisition? Let us know in the comments.

 

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