Facebook has followed Googles lead by trumpeting plans to expand its presence in the UK despite ongoing uncertainty over the impact of this summersBrexit vote for the country toleave the European Union.
Speaking at the annual CBI conference in London today, Facebooks Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA, announced plans for the social network to increase its UK headcount by 50 per cent by the end of2017, and open a new HQ in the country.
Mendelsohn said the aim is to grow headcount from 1,000 to 1,500 by then with many of the new jobs touted as high skilled engineering jobs.
We came to London in 2007 with just a handful of people, by the end of next year we will have opened a new HQ and plan to employ 1,500 people. Many of those new roles will be high skilled engineering jobs as the UK is home to our largest engineering base outside of the US and is where we have developed new products like Workplace, she said, alsonoting the companys presence in Somerset where itsAquila facility is working on designing and building solar power unmanned planes to bringconnectivity to remote regions.
Its not clear exactly what proportion oftheadditionaljobs wouldbe engineering roles vs other jobs such as sales. We askedbut the company declined to provide any furtherdetails.
Facebooks announcement of an intention to increase UK headcount followsGoogles UK-focused publicity last week when the company re-announced a long plannedexpansion of its Londoncampus couching the moveas a continued commitment to the UK in spite of Brexit.
Reporters were told that the capacity of Googles new London HQis 7,000 vs the 4,000 ofits current building with the implication being the companycould employee 3,000 more staff in the UKby 2020. Assuming, that is, business conditions in the UK prove favorable with CEO Sundar Pichai talking about the absolute importance of open borders and free movement for skilled migrants. Two things that,absolutely, cannot be guaranteed, given the UKs impending Brexit. Soquite how many of those potential 3,000 additional Google UK jobs end up existing remains to be seen like so many things affected by Brexit.
Facebooks UK expansion plans dont mentionanyspecific caveats or conditions for the company to grow headcount in the country. But in related PR it also makes a point of referencing its mission to make the worldmore open and connected. Which reads like a not-so-subtle argument for the UK government to push fora soft Brexit, rather than the tough on immigration rhetoric of the hard Brexiteers.
Especially as a plan to add an additional 500jobs is in no wayan irreversible guarantee. So again, it remains to be seen how many of the extra Facebook jobs survive the looming Brexit negotiations.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she intends to trigger the start of the two-year negotiation process to leave the EU by the end of March 2017.
Also speaking at the CBI conference today, the Prime Ministerannounceda series of business-friendly measures aimed at pouring some emollient oil on the troubled waters of Brexit including a government funding boost for R&D worth 2BN per year by 2020; and areview of the UKs corporate tax rate, suggesting it couldmove to substantially cut the rate below the current 20 per cent. (Albeit, such a movecouldin fact complicate the UKs Brexit negotiations given it would likely be viewed as a hostile move by EU governments.)
Also on the table: a possible boost for R&D tax credits to further support businesses conducting research in the UK.
May also announced a newIndustrial Strategy Challenge Fund, overseen by UK Research and Innovation and funded by some of the 2BN R&D boost aimed at supportingthe commercialization of what the government is dubbing priority technologies, such asrobotics, biotechnology and AI.
Other emerging fields that could benefit from the new funds support include medical technology, satellites, advanced materials manufacturing and other areas where the UK has a proven scientific strength and there is a significant economic opportunity for commercialisation.