Amazon plans to massively expand the number of people it employs in research and development across London – a powerful endorsement of the capital’s booming tech sector despite the economy being steeped in uncertainty ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU.
The Seattle-based e-retail behemoth, which on Tuesday opened its new London office, said that it would be doubling the capacity of its development centre in the city from 450 to 900 and that it plans to occupy all 15 floors of a new 600,000sq ft building in Shoreditch, east London.
The move means that by the end of 2017, Amazon will employ more than 5,000 people in research and development roles as well as corporate jobs across several sites in London. It has invested more than £6.4bn in the UK since 2010 and has pledged to create 5,000 new permanent roles across the country in 2017 taking its total UK workforce to 24,000.
“London is one of the world’s truly great cities and home to some of the most talented, creative people on the planet, and we are delighted to provide our teams of innovators with a new, purpose-built workplace,” Doug Gurr, UK country manager for Amazon, said.
Asked about the prospect of Brexit and whether it might hamper the company’s ability to source the right talent, Mr Gurr said that he continues to see “plenty of applications for every role advertised”.
“We have a large number of EU citizens,” he told journalists at an event marking the opening of the new building. “We feel we benefit hugely from our diverse workforce and we are optimistic and hopefully that will continue.”
Minister for digital Matt Hancock described the expansion as “great news for Britain”.
“This is the latest in a long line of recent major investments in London by global tech firms over the last year, and shows once more that our great city is the tech capital of Europe,” said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. “London is open to talent, innovation and entrepreneurship and the natural place for major global companies to call home.”
In November last year Facebook announced plans to hire hundreds of extra workers in the UK when it opens a new office in London, increasing its workforce in the UK by half. Google committed to creating 3,000 London jobs in the wake of the referendum and IBM and Asos have made similar commitments.
Amazon has in recent months been investing heavily in the creation and marketing of films and its own television shows, and the London expansion underscores its mission to challenge rivals like Netflix in this field.
Earlier this month Netflix defeated Wall Street forecasts by reporting that it had added 5.2 million new streaming customers in the second quarter of the financial year. It also forecast that momentum would likely keep pace, as foreign subscriptions overtook subscriptions from its home market of the US, thanks to shows like House of Cards.
On Tuesday, Amazon said that the new research and development roles in London will primarily include software development engineers, user-interface experts, data analysts and graphic designers focussing on its own video streaming service, which is home to shows like Jeremy Clarkson's The Grand Tour.
Amazon has endured a break-neck pace of expansion in recent years.
Having started as a mail-order book seller in the early 1990s, the company has branched out into entertainment, streaming, grocery deliver, home assistant technology and other areas.
Last month it announced that it was acquiring high-end super market chain Whole Foods in a $13.7bn (£10.5bn) deal that will give it a foothold in the bricks-and-mortar space for physical shopping.
Shares recently surpassed the $1,000 mark for the first time in history, making billionaire founder Jeff Bezos one of the world’s richest individuals.
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