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NATO targets AI, robots and space tech in $1.1 billion fund

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows the letters "AI" (Artificial Intelligence) and robot hand miniature

By Martin Coulter

LONDON (Reuters) - A consortium of NATO allies has confirmed the first tranche of companies awarded funding as part of the group’s one billion euro ($1.1 billion) innovation fund.

The alliance unveiled the fund in the summer of 2022, months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, promising to invest in technologies that would enhance its defences. The fund is backed by 24 of NATO's 32 member states, including Finland and Sweden, which joined the alliance earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF) confirmed it had directly invested in four European tech companies, which it said would help address challenges in defence, security, and resilience.

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The body has allocated funding to Fractile, a London-based computer chipmaker aiming to make large language models (LLMs) like those that power ChatGPT run faster, as well as Germany's ARX Robotics, which designs unmanned robots with functions ranging from heavy-lifting to surveillance.

The other two startups were British manufacturer iCOMAT, which makes lighter materials for vehicles, and Space Forge, a Welsh company that harnesses the conditions of space – such as microgravity and vacuum conditions – to build semiconductors in-orbit.

“Enabling access to strategic technologies is key to securing a safe and prosperous future for the alliance's one billion citizens,” said Andrea Traversone, the fund's managing partner.

The fund has also partnered with venture capital firms Alpine Space Ventures, OTB Ventures, Join Capital and Vsquared Ventures to support further investment in deep tech on the continent.

(This story has been refiled to say 'Fractile,' not 'Fractile AI,' in paragraph 4)

(Reporting by Martin Coulter; Editing by Bill Berkrot)