Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has announced a $3.2 billion investment to expand its next-gen artificial intelligence (AI) data center infrastructure in the United Kingdom, designed to boost its digital footprint in the country.
The injection of funds into the U.K. technology ecosystem will focus on three primary arms, according to a statement by Microsoft President Brad Smith. The first involves improving existing AI infrastructure by deploying over 20,000 high-end GPUs to the U.K. before the end of 2026.
.@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 the safety and security.https://t.co/qtTrjH9IS9
— Brad Smith (@BradSmi) November 30, 2023
The lump sum will be used to expand its existing infrastructure around London and Cardiff, with plans to expand to other northern cities. Microsoft confirmed expanding its Accelerating Foundation Models Research (AFMR) program to the U.K. to “accelerate scientific discovery” in natural and life sciences.
“This infrastructure investment will help to meet the exploding demand for efficient, scalable and sustainable AI specific compute power and the needs of the private and public sector waiting to take advantage of the latest cloud and AI breakthroughs,” said Microsoft.
Smith disclosed via his statement that the company’s efforts will be complemented via a wholesale investment in AI talent and educational programs nationwide. To achieve this, Microsoft has set its sights on training one million U.K. residents with AI skills designed to deepen the talent pool for AI developers and enterprises.
Besides deepening the talent pool, Microsoft’s investment in AI education intends to equip developers with the ethics and principles to develop safe AI solutions. Attendees of the training are expected to complete Microsoft’s Responsible Generative AI courses. At the same time, the tech giant begins its search for non-profit partners to achieve its goals.
The last arm of Microsoft’s AI investment will see the firm double down on AI safety and security measures in its internal infrastructure and external applications.
In late October, Microsoft announced a similar $3.2 billion investment into Australia to deepen the local talent pool and improve AI infrastructure. Amid stifling restrictions in the U.S., pundits have described Microsoft’s recent investment spree as a valiant attempt to seek new frontiers to conduct AI research.
The new Silicon Valley
As U.K. authorities are excited about Microsoft’s investment, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt describes it as key to the “U.K.’s ambition to be the next Silicon Valley.”
The U.K. has established an AI task force to spearhead its foray into the emerging industry, backed by a large capital injection. Aside from seeking to attract leading AI companies to settle in the U.K., authorities have expressed concerns over AI and other emerging technologies risks, leading to the signing of the historic Bletchley Declaration on AI safety.
“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 U.K.,” remarked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “The U.K. 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 its economic and scientific benefits.”
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