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Google invests £790m in first UK data centre

Google has unveiled a one billion US dollar (£790 million) investment in its first UK data centre, hailed by the Government as a “huge vote of confidence in Britain”.

The tech giant said it had started building the facility on a 33-acre site in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, with aims for construction to be completed by 2025.

It marks the latest investment by a major US tech firm in Britain, coming less than two months after Microsoft announced it would invest £2.5 billion to expand data centres for artificial intelligence (AI) across the UK.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said every growing economy ‘relied’ on data centres (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Google’s plans were “testament to the fact that the UK is a centre of excellence in technology and has huge potential for growth”.

He added: “Foreign investment creates jobs and grows all regions of our economy, and investments like this will help to drive growth in the decade ahead.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, added: “From business conducted online to advancements in healthcare, every growing economy relies on data centres.

“Our country is no different and this major one billion US dollar investment from Google is a huge vote of confidence in Britain as the largest tech economy in Europe.”

Google said it was too early to say how many jobs would be created at the Hertfordshire site, but 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 across 11 countries, including 13 in the US.

Ben Barringer, technology analyst at Quilter Cheviot, said it was unlikely that a significant number of jobs would be created, after construction was complete.

He said: “Data centres do not require scores of employees to run them, and given Google is a very lean business, it will be looking to make its operation as efficient as possible.”

Google said the site would be constructed in line with its net-zero aims (Google/PA)
Google said the site would be constructed in line with its net-zero aims (Google/PA)

Google said the site would help power popular digital services, such as Google Cloud; Workspace, which includes Gmail, Docs, Sheets and others; Search; and Maps.

It said it would also “play a critical role in supporting the company’s AI innovations and will provide the UK with much-needed compute capacity”.

Google already has more than 7,000 staff in the UK and sites in King’s Cross, Central Saint Giles and Victoria in London and Manchester.

Its DeepMind AI research and development lab is also based in London.

Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer and chief financial officer of Google and parent company Alphabet, said: “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.”

Google said the site, which it bought in October 2020, would also 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.

Tech expert Mr Barringer said the move was “another victory in luring big tech to the UK” for the Government, but a “drop in the ocean” for Google.

He said: “The cost of this data centre is around a 30th of their annual capital expenditure and with approximately 30 data centres already constructed globally, it isn’t exactly going to move the needle for them by adding another.

“For the future, however, this puts the UK in a good position to seize the advantage in AI.”