Google has bought artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies in its biggest ever European acquisition

UK AI start-up Google's biggest European acquisition

Google has acquired a British start-up developing artificial intelligence as it looks to expand into the self-driving vehicles and robotics industry.

The £242m acquisition of DeepMind Technologies was said to be the biggest European purchase Google has ever made.

The company, started by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, is developing algorithms to make computers think independently. So far, the technology has been used in simulations, e-commerce and games.

Hassabis, a former teenage chess prodigy, founded the company together with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyma. He is also known for a previous career in video game design and for being behind the celebrated Theme Park simulation title from the mid-1990s.

The London-based company's website claims to have the backing of "some of the most iconic technology entrepreneurs and investors of the past decade" and is reported to employ around 75 people.

Google has not detailed any plans for the group, but technology publication The Information said the deal has prompted it to set up an ethics board to ensure the technology is not abused. It added that Facebook had also been interested in buying DeepMind last year.

The move is the latest in a string of technology acquisitions for Google as it seeks to diversify revenues. It bought several robotics companies last year, including US-based Boston Dynamics, which develops fast robots resembling animals and has strong links to the military.

The acquisition comes as the UK is seeing a rise in technology start-ups, with London seeing an influx of budding entrepreneurs launching businesses near its so-called Silicon Roundabout. The area is also an increasingly popular choice for Silicon Valley companies looking for a springboard to launch into Europe.

Google confirmed it had bought DeepMind but declined to comment further.

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