It may resemble a classic Silicon Valley success story, but a key part of Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip was created by a small British company based on a quiet industrial estate on the outskirts of Reading, MailOnline can exclusively reveal.
Set on an isolated development surrounded almost entirely by water around a mile from the M4, the headquarters of chip designer Sondrel seems an unlikely source for the critical technology behind one of the biggest scientific developments of recent times.
But the start-up, which has a valuation of less than £5million and is listed on the London Stock Exchange’s small-cap market, AIM, assisted with some of the semiconductor technology that allows Neuralink’s implants to function.
Sondrel is just one of a handful of companies capable designing and supplying the higher-spec chips required. Others are based in Asia and considered vulnerable to Chinese interference.
Like many sensitive tech developments, the project is subjected to multiple non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), meaning the precise role played by British designers – and the number of other companies involved – is shrouded in secrecy.
However, a source with knowledge of the project suggested Sondrel played a key role in assisting California-based Neuralink, which successfully implanted a chip in a patient’s brain for the first time on Sunday.
‘Sondrel solved a problem that others could not, and that was necessary for the finished product, so it played a pretty significant role,’ the insider told MailOnline.
The Berkshire firm’s chief executive is Graham Curren, who graduated in Electronic Engineering from Leeds University before taking a role at Avant! Corporation, an electronic design automation company.
He founded Sondrel in 2002 after identifying a gap in the market for an international company specialising in complex chip design.
Elon Musk has said Neuralink’s implant, called ‘Telepathy’, could allow users with disabilities like Stephen Hawking to move their bodies using their thoughts and ‘communicate faster than an auctioneer’.
He said it will ‘enable control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking’.