OpenAI is expanding overseas. To London, specifically.
Today, the Microsoft-backed AI startup announced that it plans to open an office in London, its first international outpost. When OpenAI’s London location opens its doors, it’ll focus on advancing “research and engineering capabilities” while balancing collaborating with “local communities and policymakers,” according to CEO Sam Altman.
“We see this expansion as an opportunity to attract world-class talent and drive innovation in AGI development and policy,” Altman, who reportedly had floated Poland and France as alternatives for the office, said in a canned statement. “We’re excited about what the future holds and to see the contributions our London office will make towards building and deploying safe AI.”
London is a conspicuous choice for OpenAI, which hasn’t expanded beyond its San Francisco headquarters since its founding in 2015. The city is the longtime home base of DeepMind, Google’s largest AI research division, and a wellspring of data science talent, owing to its rich academic history and renowned universities.
Broadly speaking, London is also becoming a booming center for AI startup ventures. According to a recent report, as of 2021, over 1,300 AI companies were based in London and the city was the top-funded in the U.K. in terms of venture dollars invested.
The city is also important politically to tech companies heavily invested in AI, like OpenAI, which seek to convince the U.K.’s governing bodies to regulate AI with a light touch. On a recent lobbying tour, Altman made an appearance at the University College London, where he called for “balanced” regulation and warned of the risks of deepfake disinformation.
At that same appearance, Altman said that OpenAI would “cease operating” in the European Union if it’s unable to comply with the provisions of the bloc’s AI Act, one of the first comprehensive set of regulations for the AI industry. He later backed down from the comments — but the play was made.