Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft’s £2.5 billion investment in UK AI

1st December 2023
Paige West

The Chancellor has recognised Microsoft's significant investment in AI infrastructure and skills as a key element for future growth and innovation, enhancing the UK's stature in science and technology.

Microsoft announced plans to increase its datacentre capacity in the UK and to train over one million individuals for roles in the AI economy. The company is also supporting the UK's AI safety and research initiatives through collaborations with the government and universities.

As a part of this initiative, Microsoft will invest £2.5 billion over the next three years to enhance its AI datacentre infrastructure in the UK. This expansion includes the addition of over 20,000 advanced Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), vital for machine learning and AI model development, by 2026.

This investment, the largest in Microsoft's 40-year history in the UK, will see the company expand its AI infrastructure in London and Cardiff, with potential growth in northern England. The expansion aims to meet the increasing demand for efficient, scalable, and sustainable AI computing power.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced this commitment as part of a broader £29.5 billion investment in the UK's innovative sectors, including technology, life sciences, and renewables, at the Global Investment Summit.

The Chancellor welcomed this investment during his visit to a new Microsoft datacentre facility in North London, which will operate entirely on renewable energy. He was accompanied by Microsoft's Vice Chair and President Brad Smith and Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remarked: “Microsoft is a pivotal figure in modern technology, and today's announcement marks a significant moment for the UK's AI infrastructure and development.

“The UK initiated the global AI dialogue earlier this month, and Microsoft's substantial investment underscores our ongoing leadership in expanding AI's economic and scientific potential.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt commented: “The UK is a leading tech hub in Europe, surpassing the ecosystems of Germany and France. This investment from Microsoft is a strong endorsement of our status as a science superpower.

“This complements the £500 million investment in Compute announced in my Autumn Statement last week, taking our total investment in advanced computing for AI to £1.5 billion.”

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan stated: “This investment is a strong endorsement of the UK technology sector's robustness. It highlights Microsoft's support for the UK's aspiration to be a global leader in AI safety.

“This not only strengthens our critical infrastructure but also keeps the UK at the forefront of driving economic growth and innovation.”

Microsoft vice chair and President Brad Smith said: “Microsoft is committed to ensuring the UK has world-class AI infrastructure, easy access to necessary skills, and strong safety and security measures.”

Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay, added: “The rapid evolution of AI requires immediate action to secure a prosperous future for the UK. Today's announcement represents our largest investment in the UK in over 40 years.

“As businesses and the public sector leverage AI, we're establishing the infrastructure to support their growth, training professionals for responsible delivery, and safeguarding our society against emerging threats.”

To further AI research, Microsoft is expanding its Accelerating Foundation Models Research (AFMR) programme, granting priority GPU access to the UK’s science and research community. This programme, involving top UK universities like Cambridge, Oxford, and Imperial College, aims to utilise AI for scientific discovery in various fields.

Additionally, Microsoft is investing millions to train one million UK workers in AI, collaborating with learning and non-profit partners. The focus is on building AI fluency, developing technical skills, supporting business transformation, and promoting safe AI development and use.

This announcement coincides with the government's new Online Fraud Charter agreement with tech companies, including Microsoft, to combat online fraud. The agreement mandates platforms to verify new advertisers, remove fraudulent content, and introduce verification for peer-to-peer sales and online dating services.

The Chancellor also announced an additional £500 million investment in advanced computing for AI at the Autumn Statement, bringing the government’s total planned investment in compute to over £1.5 billion.

These investments are poised to establish the UK as a leading AI ecosystem, fostering a conducive environment for AI startups and supporting groundbreaking discoveries that benefit society.

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