Japanese car giant Mazda has strengthened its partnership with Cambridge automotive tech pioneer Secondmind by investing in a new $16 million funding round to underpin further AI-fuelled innovation.

Mazda pulls alongside existing investors Amadeus Capital Partners, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Atlantic Bridge Ventures, which has operations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Secondmind and Mazda are extending a long-standing strategic partnership to drive auto AI that addresses the increasing engineering complexity in vehicle design and development.

The extended partnership centres around R & D and the commercial deployment of solutions that support systems engineering and validation processes.

The vision is to unlock time and cost efficiencies through increased virtualisation in design and development and involves a sharp focus on strategic applications with high complexity barriers to overcome.

Secondmind and Mazda have collaborated for more than three years.

The new funding, which includes conversion of a Future Fund note, will enable Secondmind to scale key aspects of its business, including ramping up sales and marketing and accelerating development of the company’s award-winning, cloud-native Secondmind Optimization Engine.

Gary Brotman, Chief Executive Officer at Secondmind, said: “Secondmind and Mazda have been aligned from day one around a common goal of enabling continuous optimisation of vehicle design and performance and helping the automotive industry deliver in the era of the software-defined vehicle.

“This expanded strategic partnership agreement strengthens our long-standing relationship of deep collaboration and we are proud to support Mazda in opening new avenues for AI innovation in automotive engineering by way of Mazda’s advanced AI research and education strategy.

“We’re excited to welcome Mazda as an investor in this funding round alongside Amadeus Capital Partners, Atlantic Bridge Ventures, and Cambridge Innovation Capital and look forward to leveraging this infusion of capital to accelerate the development and commercial deployment of more high-value system design optimisation and calibration applications for Mazda and the automotive industry at large.”

Naohito Saga, Executive Officer in charge of R & D strategy planning at Mazda, added: “The automotive industry needs to further accelerate the speed and efficiency of development due to the diversification of market needs and the increasing sophistication and complexity of technology.

“We hope that our partnership with Secondmind will bring out-of-the-box thinking and innovative technology to Mazda. We look forward to the partnership with Secondmind contributing to the further evolution of Mazda’s vehicle manufacturing.”

Hermann Hauser, Co-Founder and Venture Partner, Amadeus Capital Partners, said the firm had backed Secondmind “since its earliest stages when it was one of the first companies we found developing practical applications for AI.”

Dr Hauser added: “Still true to this mission, Secondmind’s strategic focus on the automotive industry has proven highly successful and its partnership with Mazda is testament to this. We are pleased to partner with such an industry leader in the latest investment round.”

Ian Lane, Partner, Cambridge Innovation Capital, spelled out the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for Secondmind. He commented: “Secondmind’s AI and cloud-native optimisation solutions arm engineers with the tools and confidence to reimagine the development and driving experience of electric vehicles, enabling continuous enhancements in energy efficiency and performance throughout the vehicle’s lifespan.”