SAP uses artificial intelligence from Aleph Alpha from Heidelberg

SAP uses artificial intelligence from Aleph Alpha from Heidelberg

Dhe software manufacturer SAP does not want to leave the artificial intelligence (AI) business to the Americans alone. According to information from the FAZ, the group is negotiating an entry into the Heidelberg start-up Aleph Alpha.

Sven Astheimer

Responsible editor for corporate reporting.

Bernd Freytag

Business correspondent Rhein-Neckar-Saar based in Mainz.

The young company, founded in 2019 by former Apple manager Jonas Andrulis, is considered one of the greatest hopes for an independent European AI. According to the company, the “Luminous” program can keep up with ChatGPT from the market leader Open AI. This was the result of a standardized performance comparison published in February.

According to information from the group’s environment, SAP wants to participate in the second round of financing that is now underway, the talk is of an amount of less than 100 million euros. The decision should be made in the next two to three weeks. SAP itself did not want to comment on this on Thursday, nor did Aleph Alpha founder Jonas Andrulis.

A new quality of artificial intelligence

The ChatGPT software has been keeping the world in suspense for months. In the fall, Open AI published version 3.5 of its revolutionary language model of this “generative AI”. The program is significantly more powerful than previous software. The chatbot can write poems or essays and much more.

The software company Microsoft then increased its stake by ten billion dollars and integrated the AI ​​into its Internet search engine Bing. The language model version GPT4, which also works with images, was recently introduced. In the meantime, other tech giants such as the Google parent company Alphabet have also gone public with corresponding competing products.

Experts are largely in agreement that this new quality of artificial intelligence has what it takes to bring about far-reaching changes, if not upheavals, in the economy and society – for better or for worse. Therefore, well-known researchers and technology entrepreneurs called in an open letter on Wednesday to interrupt work on such AI systems for at least six months in order to understand and evaluate the topic.

Aleph Alpha Founder Jonas Andrulis

Aleph Alpha Founder Jonas Andrulis

Image: dpa

For Aleph Alpha founder Andrulis, this is not a sensible measure. Most of the signatories are not working on this AI at all, he told the FAZ. It is also questionable whether everyone would really be willing to stop working.

In addition to the opportunities offered by the technology, Andrulis also sees enormous risks. For him, the answer lies in the rapid development of our own applications: “We have to design, only rejecting and regulating will not solve the problem.” Due to the dominance of ChatGPT and Microsoft, calls for more diversity are increasingly being made in the tech scene.

In 2021, Aleph Alpha successfully completed a financing round of around 23 million euros. This increased the number of employees to around 50, set up a fast AI data center in Bayreuth and started reference projects, for example with the city administration in Heidelberg. But ChatGPT has completely changed the starting position.

An entry by SAP would be obvious

“A 20 billion dollar steamroller from Microsoft is rolling towards us,” says Andrulis, referring to the almost unlimited financial resources of the Americans. In order not to be completely left behind, the North Badeners have to raise their next round of financing (Series B) this year. There is a sum in the three-digit million range.

An entry by SAP, whose headquarters in Walldorf is just a stone’s throw from Heidelberg, would be obvious. In January, SAP CEO Christian Klein told the FAZ that SAP was already using ChatGPT, also for programming. SAP is “a bit of a test laboratory for new technologies, and if it fits, we will also implement the programs in the standard development”. At the same time he was skeptical. Much of what the apps offer already exists. “What we are experiencing now is the next evolution again. In highly complex applications, however, the human factor will not disappear. The knowledge of the industry and its business processes stays with him. I have no qualms about that.”

Of course, the demonstrative calmness of the SAP boss should not hide the fact that AI could also fundamentally change a group like SAP. In addition to being directly affected, according to information from those around the group, SAP is also simply concerned with living up to its role as Europe’s largest software group.

Should Aleph Alpha actually become the nucleus of a European AI group, SAP would be there. Financially, the participation would be a piece of cake for SAP. The group has spent more than 30 billion euros on a whole range of companies over the past ten years. In addition, SAP continues to invest billions in investment funds of the independent venture capital subsidiary Sapphire Ventures.


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