Google’s parent company Alphabet has become the latest big tech company to lay off thousands of workers, as the industry trims costs in the face of higher inflation, rising interest rates and a downturn in global stock markets.
The company will lay off 12,000 employees, equivalent to about 6% of its global workforce, unwinding the hiring spree it had been on in recent years.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and Alphabet, said in an email to employees on January 20 that the company had “hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today”. At the end of September 2022, Google had 186,779 employees — an increase of 24.5% from the previous year.
The cuts are not isolated to Google. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said in a note on January 18 that the company would slash 10,000 jobs, equivalent to about 4.5% of its global workforce as of the end of June 2022.
Massive layoffs across the tech industry have mirrored the decline in global venture capital investment. Start-ups have adjusted to a more gloomy economy outlook and the end of ‘cheap money’, with the CEO of neobank Revolut calling the current climate a “hangover” for the tech scene.
Fortescue raise British battery hopes
Andrew Forrest, the billionaire founder of Australian mining giant Fortescue, said he will open a battery plant in the UK, less than 24 hours after the collapse of Britishvolt dealt a blow to UK ambition to develop a home-grown battery supply chain.
Forrest told Sky News that he would expand WAE Technologies, the Kidlington, Oxfordshire-based electric technology company he bought in 2022, to work on batteries and fuel cells for use in heavy-goods vehicles.
The new battery plant will create 300 jobs, Forrest said, and though it will not produce enough battery modules per year to be considered a gigafactory — as Britishvolt had planned — it will produce high-density batteries currently in use in large trucks, but which Forrest said “are going to be everywhere: in motorbikes, cars, trucks … even trains”.
“Last year, we started building a large factory in Kidlington. We’ll open it in April,” he said. “And that's only the start. I want to expand it from there and I want to take that technology to Australia, to North America. I want to really stop the British brain drain and bring the smartest British engineers … home.”
Industry warns of Europe’s declining competitiveness
Multinational executives and senior politicians have cautioned that European regulation must be simplified to improve the continent’s competitiveness for attracting green investment.
“Europe has a huge challenge and huge risk of deindustrialisation,” said Ilham Kadri, the CEO of chemicals multinational Solvay, in a panel on January 19 at the World Economic Forum.
Discussion about European competitiveness comes on the heels of the US Inflation Reduction Act, a package approved last August which provides $369bn of incentives for US green investments.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that while the Act had some “unintended consequences”, it was an opportunity for Europe to adapt its state aid rules and provide more subsidies for industry.
In 2022, the US attracted $63.8bn worth of foreign renewable energy investment projects, exceeding the $43.6bn worth of projects across the whole of Western Europe, according to preliminary fDi Markets data up to November.