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UCL Technology Fund invests in data anonymisation software developer Anon AI ahead of GDPR

The University College London (UCL) Technology Fund has invested in a data anonymisation software start-up called Anon AI.

The Fund was set-up in January 2016 to help commercialise intellectual property developed at the University, focusing in particular on the physical and life sciences.

Academics whose research has commercial potential can apply for funding for early-stage proofs of concept, licensing projects and new spin-out companies. The Fund is managed by Albion Capital, rather than directly by the University. Albion is one of the largest independent venture capital firms in the UK.

The idea behind Anon AI is to automate data anonymisation and help developers and data scientists to share data securely

The investment comes as part of a £340,000 pre-seed round in partnership with the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), AI Seed and Ascension Ventures.

The idea behind Anon AI is to automate data anonymisation and help developers and data scientists to share data securely. The start-up is hoping to exploit the fact that the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into force shortly, as businesses’ concerns to protect personal data intensifies. 

According to UCL, the investment will enable Anon AI to enhance its prototype model and build a ‘best in class’ developer tool in collaboration with the UCL community.

Organisations are drowning in data and will face extensive compliance requirements once GDPR comes into effect

CEO Harry Keen and chief technology officer James Arthur will work with the University in a bid to advance its machine learning techniques and engage with public policy as GDPR goes live. Dr Fintan Nagle, a machine-learning researcher at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, has been tasked with working with Anon AI to improve the natural language processing capabilities of the software.

“Organisations are drowning in data and will face extensive compliance requirements once GDPR comes into effect,” said David Grimm, investment manager, UCL Technology Fund.

“Anon AI addresses the dual challenge of maintaining the security of mass personal data and preserving innovation. Its experienced team and cutting edge AI software give it an excellent opportunity to take an industry leading position in a market that stands at £30m+ in the financial services industry alone,” he continued.

Keen added that the team was “excited” to be working with UCL’s machine learning experts “to create intelligent, commercially viable software”.

Anon AI is the fourth AI business the UCL Technology Fund has invested in to date. 

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