Microsoft's dominance hides an AI strategy reliant on OpenAI, worrying some insiders. Pixabay

Microsoft is ramping up its AI efforts with a new London research and development office. The company's AI chief, Mustafa Suleyman, promises to attract "exceptional individuals" with upcoming job postings. Regrettably, the top executive did not reveal how many jobs will be created.

This London hub announcement follows Microsoft's recent formation of Microsoft AI, a dedicated organisation focusing on consumer AI advancement, including products like Copilot. The hub will focus on developing AI-powered products and conducting cutting-edge AI research within Microsoft's Paddington offices.

Microsoft is a significant investor in London's burgeoning AI scene via OpenAI. The Satya Nadella-led company is further solidifying its presence with a new AI research and development hub in Paddington. "There is an enormous pool of AI talent and expertise in the UK," said Mr Suleyman in a blog post.

According to Suleyman, "Microsoft AI plans to make a significant, long-term investment in the region as we begin hiring the best AI scientists and engineers into this new AI hub." Suleyman co-founded the AI research lab DeepMind in the UK, which was bought by Google in 2014.

Underscoring his commitment, Suleyman, who co-founded the UK's DeepMind lab (acquired by Google in 2014), Microsoft's long-term commitment to the region. He stated the company plans to make significant investments as it recruits top AI talent for this new London hub.

Following his own AI startup, Inflection AI (founded in 2022), Suleyman joined Microsoft in March. He's appointed AI engineer Jordan Hoffmann, another DeepMind and Inflection alumnus, to lead the new London office.

"Microsoft AI London will drive pioneering work to advance state-of-the-art language models and their supporting infrastructure," Suleyman said.

Suleyman also commended the UK's "safety-first" approach to AI, echoing a recent agreement signed by UK Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan and the US for collaborative testing of advanced AI models.

Microsoft's UK AI hub paves the way for AI talent

Viscount Camrose, the minister for AI, told the BBC the new London hub was a "vote of confidence in the UK's status as a global leader in AI innovation."

"The UK is home to a thriving AI sector, employing over 50,000 people across the country and contributing £3.7 billion to our economy," he said.

"Thanks to our pro-innovation approach to AI, we continue to attract the top talent and businesses from across the globe," Suleyman said. The newly opened UK office will work closely with the OpenAI staff.

At the start of 2023, Microsoft announced its plan to build on its initial £790 million investment in OpenAI with a "multi-year, multi-billion" partnership. The Redmond-based tech firm's backing proved instrumental in securing Altman's swift return to OpenAI's leadership.

Altman joined Microsoft briefly after his removal from OpenAI in November 2023. However, due to employee pressure and likely Microsoft's influence behind the scenes, he was reinstated as OpenAI's CEO.

Despite holding the title of the world's most valuable publicly traded company, with a market capitalisation exceeding £2.37 ($3) trillion, Microsoft faces concerns from some insiders regarding its overdependence on OpenAI for its artificial intelligence strategy.

"Microsoft AI opening a new hub in the heart of London is another feather in the cap of the capital's burgeoning tech ecosystem," said Russ Shaw, founder of campaign group Tech London Advocates.

Shaw believes the London office "should be seen as a huge vote of confidence for the UK from one of the global tech industry's major players."

"AI is already helping people to work more efficiently and creatively, and it's vital for the UK's status as a world-leading tech ecosystem that it remains at the forefront of research and innovation into the technology," he added.