Google has announced a billion-dollar investment in a UK data centre in a move hailed by the government as a “huge vote of confidence in Britain”.
The data centre, which will be built on a 33-acre site in Hertfordshire, will power Google’s cloud and AI services for British customers and will be the company’s third big site around the capital, after King’s Cross and Central Saint Giles in London.
It marks the latest investment by a leading American technology company in Britain, coming less than two months after Microsoft said it would invest £2.5 billion to expand data centres for artificial intelligence nationwide.
Google already has more than 7,000 staff in the UK and sites in London and Manchester. Its DeepMind AI research and development laboratory is also based in the capital.
Ruth Porat, 66, the chief financial officer of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said the Waltham Cross site would “create construction and technical jobs for the local community”.
Rishi Sunak, who has been wooing Silicon Valley companies to invest in Britain over the past year, said the Google investment “is testament to the fact that the UK is a centre of excellence in technology and has huge potential for growth. Foreign investment creates jobs and grows all regions of our economy and investments like this will help to drive growth in the decade ahead.”
The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Jeremy Hunt has been meeting the world’s business leaders to sell the UK as a destination for foreign investment and technology jobs.
The chancellor told a panel that Britain was the “third largest tech economy in the world after the US and China” and he called on global governments to adopt a “light touch” approach to regulating AI. He added that Google’s investment was “a huge vote of confidence in Britain as the largest tech economy in Europe, bringing with it good jobs and the infrastructure we need to support the industries of the future”.
Ben Barringer, technology analyst at Quilter Cheviot, a wealth manager, said the investment was a “drop in the ocean” for Google and “simply represents prudent business. The announcement on the Google data centre is a good start, but lots more is required before the UK can start thinking in such grand terms as a future Silicon Valley.”
Google said it had started to build the facility on a 33-acre site in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, with an aim for construction to be completed by 2025. The company said it was too early to say how many jobs would be created at the site, but it confirmed the centre would require engineers, project managers, data centre technicians, electricians, catering and security personnel.
It adds to its 27 data centres worldwide, with sites in 11 countries, including 13 in the United States.
Google said that the site, which it bought in October 2020, also would be constructed in line with its net-zero aims, with plans for the significant heat generated by the data centre to be used to heat homes and businesses in the local area.