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Boost for UK AI as Microsoft unveils £2.5 billion investment

The Chancellor has welcomed Microsoft's £2.5 billion investment over the next 3 years to expand its next generation AI datacentre infrastructure.

The Chancellor has today hailed Microsoft’s major investment in AI infrastructure and skills as critical for future growth and innovation, boosting the country as a science and technology superpower.

Microsoft is committing to more than doubling its datacentre footprint in the UK and training more than one million people for the AI economy. It’s also supporting the UK’s growing AI safety and research efforts through partnerships with the government and leading universities.

As part of this, Microsoft will spend £2.5 billion over the next three years to expand its next generation AI datacentre infrastructure, bringing more than 20,000 of the most advanced Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) - which are crucial for machine learning and the development of AI models - 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, helping to meet the exploding demand for efficient, scalable and sustainable AI specific compute power. Datacentres process, host and store the massive amounts of digital information that is critical for developing AI models. 

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

The UK is already the leading European tech ecosystem, which last year was worth more than double Germany’s and three times as much as France’s. The UK’s AI sector also contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy and employs 50,000 people across the country.

The Chancellor welcomed Microsoft’s investment on a visit to one of its new, next generation datacentre facilities under construction in North London - which will run fully on renewable energy - where he was joined by Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, and Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay.   

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“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.

 “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.

 Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:

“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.

 “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.”

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said:

“This is a huge vote of confidence in the strength of the UK’s technology sector, showing Microsoft’s support for the UK to reach superpower heights and cementing our global AI safety leadership.

“This investment not only bolsters critical infrastructure but also ensures that the UK remains at the forefront of driving economic growth and innovation.”

 Microsoft vice chair and President Brad Smith said:

“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.” 

 Microsoft UK CEO, Clare Barclay, said:

“The pace of change in AI demands action today to build a prosperous future for the UK tomorrow.  Today marks the single largest investment in our more than 40-year history in the UK.

“As business and the public sector embrace the AI opportunity, we are building the infrastructure that will support the growth they need, training the people who can deliver it responsibly and securing our society against emergent threats”.

 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.  AFMR drives interdisciplinary research on AI alignment and safety, beneficial applications of AI, and AI-driven scientific discovery in the natural and life sciences. This new UK effort will aim at harnessing the power of AI to accelerate scientific discovery via multiscale multimodal data generation through prioritised access to Microsoft’s AI tools. This programme includes researchers from the UK’s world leading participating universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College, UCL, Bath and Nottingham.  

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.

Working in partnership with multiple learning and non-profit partners, the programme will focus on building AI fluency, developing AI technical skills, supporting AI business transformation, and promoting safe and responsible AI development and use including the first Professional Certificate on Generative AI.

Today’s news comes as the government has 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.

Under the agreement, platforms will verify new advertisers and promptly remove fraudulent content. Individuals selling items on peer-to-peer platforms such as Facebook Marketplace will also be verified, and there will also be a function for people using online dating services to confirm who they are.

Today’s announcement also comes as the Chancellor announced a further £500 million investment in advanced computing for AI at the Autumn Statement, bringing the government’s total planned public investment in compute to more than £1.5 billion.

These investments will help provide the UK with the infrastructure we need to create a world-leading AI ecosystem where our scientists and researchers continue to make extraordinary new discoveries, benefitting all of society, and making the UK is the best place in the world to start and grow an AI start-up.

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