Microsoft has delivered some welcome investment news, with the cloud giant making its single largest investment in its forty-year history in the UK.

Both Microsoft and the UK government announced that Redmond is more than doubling its data centre footprint in the UK and training more than one million people for the AI economy.

According to the announcement, Microsoft is also supporting the UK’s growing AI safety and research efforts through partnerships with the UK government and leading universities.

The Chancellor visits Microsoft’s West London data centre .
Image credit HM Treasury

UK investment

Microsoft will apparently spend £2.5 billion over the next three years to expand its next generation AI data centre infrastructure, adding more than 20,000 Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to the UK by 2026.

This is the single largest investment in its 40-year history in the country which will see Microsoft grow its UK AI infrastructure across sites in London and Cardiff and potential expansion into northern England.

This £2.5 billion commitment was confirmed as the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled £29.5 billion of investment in the UK’s most innovative sectors, including tech, life sciences, renewables, housing and infrastructure at the Global Investment Summit.

The government has long pointed to the UK’s AI sector, which contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy and employs 50,000 people across the country.

“Microsoft are one of the founding fathers of modern technology and today’s announcement is a turning point for the future of AI infrastructure and development in the UK,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“The UK started the global conversation on AI earlier this month, and Microsoft’s historic investment is further evidence of the leading role we continue to play in expanding the frontiers of AI to harness it’s economic and scientific benefits,” said the Prime Minister.

“The UK is the tech hub of Europe with an ecosystem worth more than that of Germany and France combined – and this investment is another vote of confidence in us as a science superpower,” added Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt.

The Chancellor visits Microsoft’s West London data centre .
Image credit HM Treasury

“And it follows the £500m investment in Compute that I committed to in my Autumn Statement last week, taking our investment in advanced computing for AI to £1.5bn – a down payment on the jobs and economic growth it will bring to the UK.”

“Microsoft is committed as a company to ensuring that the UK as a country has world-leading AI infrastructure, easy access to the skills people need, and broad protections for safety and security,” said Microsoft vice chair and President Brad Smith.

Data centres, Research, Training

As part of its efforts to support research on AI, Microsoft will extend its Accelerating Foundation Models Research (AFMR) programme to include prioritised access to GPUs for the UK’s science and research community.

And to support UK workers across the AI economy, Microsoft will make a multi-million pound investment to train one million people with the skills they need to build and work with AI, including expanded training for people looking to start, or move into, a career in AI.

The investment comes as the government agreed a new Online Fraud Charter with tech companies, including Microsoft – the first agreement of its kind in the world – to clamp down on fraud taking place on their platforms.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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