Microsoft’s commitment to inject 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) into the UK over the next three years, marking its most substantial investment in the country to date, is poised to serve as a cornerstone for advancing artificial intelligence (AI), according to the UK government. At a time when the UK economy faces forecasts of sluggish growth in the coming years, there’s a concerted effort to attract private investment, particularly in burgeoning sectors like AI, to fuel new infrastructure.
This significant funding initiative, initially unveiled during a summit hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday, is set to more than double Microsoft’s datacenter presence in Britain. This expanded infrastructure will play a pivotal role in supporting the development and deployment of cutting-edge AI models.
Sunak declared Thursday’s announcement as a pivotal moment shaping the trajectory of AI infrastructure and development in the UK,” emphasizing its significance in a statement.
Microsoft’s strategic initiative unfolds despite reservations voiced by its president, Brad Smith, in April. Smith had expressed concerns that a decision by the UK’s antitrust regulator, unfavorable to the US company, could jeopardize the confidence of the tech industry in Britain.
However, subsequent to Smith’s comments, the UK regulator gave its approval for a revised version of Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, effectively restoring Britain to a favorable position in Microsoft’s considerations.
“Microsoft is firmly committed to ensuring that the UK becomes a global leader in AI infrastructure,” asserted Smith during the statement, coinciding with his hosting of finance minister Jeremy Hunt at a datacenter under construction in north London.
As part of the unveiled agreement on Thursday, Microsoft will introduce over 20,000 cutting-edge Graphics Processing Units to Britain. These GPUs play a pivotal role in machine learning and the evolution of AI, as highlighted in the government’s statement.
Moreover, the investment encompasses a comprehensive training initiative designed to equip Britons with the necessary skills to actively participate in the construction and application of AI technologies, further reinforcing Microsoft’s commitment to fostering local talent and expertise.