Google is building a $1bn UK data centre to meet AI demand

19 Jan 2024

Image: Google

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said the Waltham Cross site will bring ‘crucial compute capacity’ to UK businesses.

Google has started building a new $1bn data centre in the UK to support the country’s growing cloud and AI demands.

Located in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, a small town just north of London, the latest UK data centre is being built on a 33-acre site that Google purchased in 2020.

Other than creating construction and technical jobs in the area, Google said the investment will bring “crucial compute capacity” to businesses across the UK, support AI innovation and help ensure “reliable” services to global customers of Google Cloud.

Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Google and parent Alphabet, said that the investment builds upon other recent developments by the US technology company across the region, including new offices in Saint Giles and Kings Cross and the Grace Hopper subsea cable that connects the UK with the US and Spain.

“This new data centre will help meet growing demand for our AI and cloud services and bring crucial compute capacity to businesses across the UK while creating construction and technical jobs for the local community,” Porat said in a statement yesterday (18 January).

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak called Google’s $1bn investment is “a testament to the fact that the country 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,” Sunak said.

This comes less than two months after Microsoft made its largest ever investment in the UK by committing to spend £2.5bn over the next three years to expand its AI data centre footprint in the country and foster research in the emerging technology.

The investment will see Microsoft bring more than 20,000 of its most advanced graphics processing units to the UK by 2026, which will fuel the country’s progress in the development of machine learning and AI models.

Around the same time, Sunak hosted the world’s first major AI Safety Summit in the UK to promote greater international collaboration, leading to the Bletchley Declaration.

UK chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt also announced several funding boosts late las year in the science and tech industries, with a particular focus on AI supercomputing.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic