OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is in discussions with potential investors, including the UAE government, to secure trillions of dollars for an ambitious project for the global semiconductor industry. Altman's initiative seeks to address the limitations hindering OpenAI's growth, primarily the scarcity of high-performance AI chips necessary for training large language models.
The project, estimated to cost between US$5 trillion and US$7 trillion, surpasses the scale of the current global semiconductor industry, which recorded US$ 527 billion in sales last year.
To overcome these constraints, Altman is proposing a partnership involving OpenAI, investors, chip manufacturers, and power providers. The plan involves establishing chip foundries funded by a combination of debt and contributions from the involved parties, with OpenAI committing to be a major customer for the new factories.
Altman envisions building dozens of chip fabrication plants, with discussions already held with potential partners, including the U.A.E.'s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al Nahyan and SoftBank's CEO, Masayoshi Son.
The UAE government, under President Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, could play a crucial role in the initiative, pending approval from the U.S. government due to strategic considerations related to the semiconductor industry. Altman is also exploring collaborations with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build and run these plants, expressing a desire for the U.S. to be the preferred location.
Altman has already discussed the initiative with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, aiming to keep the U.S. government informed about the project's importance to national priorities. While the discussions are in the early stages, the outcome remains uncertain, and the initiative could span several years.