Your commercial news round-up: UK general election, tech giants, streaming services, car sales, SCBEMs research

updated on 04 July 2024

Reading time: four minutes

The Euros and Wimbledon take a back seat as polling stations open in the UK for voters to elect their local MPs. The stations are open until 10:00pm on Thursday 4 July. Meanwhile, we take a look at the latest headlines featuring Google and Amazon. Plus, there’s another streaming service in town; car sales are back on the up following difficulty in the industry as a result of the pandemic; and a code of practice has been put together to govern researchers’ work on biological models of human embryos.

  • Tech giant Google has seen its greenhouse gas emissions rise by 48% over the past five years, as it increasingly relies on data centres to power its new AI products. The company said its plans to reach net zero by 2030 “won’t be easy”, with the future environmental impact of AI “complex and difficult to predict”. While there are claims that AI could help combat the climate crisis, the evolving AI products being invested in require huge amounts of energy for training and deployment in data centres. It’s also been reported that AI could account for 6.6 billion cubic metres of water use by 2027, nearly two-thirds of England’s annual consumption.

In other big tech news, Jeff Bezos has revealed plans to sell around $5 billion worth of shares in Amazon, after stock hit a record high of $200.43. The proposed sale, which would see him own about 912 million Amazon shares, follows Bezos selling shares worth around $8.5 billion in February. The plans were announced in a notice filed after market hours on Tuesday and comes after Amazon published positive Q1 results in April.

  • Another streaming service? Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation is set to launch a new free streaming service in the UK called Tubi, rivalling existing streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Tubi, which will be funded by advertising, already exists in North America with 80 million active users. It’s also not the first time Tubi will have been available in the UK – the platform was accessible in the UK and Europe until 2018 when it had to withdraw under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations. With the UK no longer part of the EU, Tubi can re-enter the market. According to Fox, it’ll provide “one of the largest and most diverse content libraries in the UK” and will make use of “machine learning” to personalise the service to its users. It recently recorded record audiences in the US, attracting more viewers than Disney+, Max and Paramount+. But has Fox launched Tubi into an already saturated market and how will the likes of Amazon and Netflix respond?
  • Car sales in the UK are on the road to recovery following the instability caused by the pandemic, with carmakers selling more than one million cars in the UK in the first half of the year. It’s also been forecast that the industry would sell around two million cars over the year (for the first time since 2019), according to data from the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT) – a figure that remains “a bit below par” but indicates recovery. SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes explained: “Given that most people buy with some kind of finance, with inflation high and interest rates high, it has made the cost of purchase more expensive.”

As well as the pressure put on the industry by the pandemic, the sales targets around selling electric vehicles (EVs) have also added to the complications, with European manufactures highlighting that they’re struggling to find buyers for EVs. The zero-emission vehicle mandate has also seen Stellantis, which owns Vauxhall, Peugeot and Fiat, threaten to close its UK factories.

  • A new code of practice has been developed by experts at the University of Cambridge and the Progress Education Trust to govern the work taking place on biological models of human embryos. The code “sets out standards to make sure that research using SCBEMs [stem-cell based embryo models] is rigorous, upholds ethical principles and maximises the potential benefits”. The SCBEMs mimic the biological processes at work in real embryos and can develop heartbeats, spinal cords and other distinctive factors. Research in this area can “improve knowledge of human development, including early pregnancy loss and pregnancy disorders”.

Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn, who’s a member of the practice working group putting the code of practice together, said the guidance has removed “stem-cell based embryo models [SCBEMs] out of the grey zone and on to more stable footing so we can fully explore their usefulness, while providing the essential reassurance that this research is being conducted carefully and with appropriate scrutiny”. As part of the new guidelines, an oversight committee will be in place to review each proposed research project. While the code isn’t legislative, the working group says it should be adopted by UK researchers, funders, research organisations, professional societies and publishers. Any scientists working outside the code will have difficulty publishing work, finding funding and likely “face opprobrium from their peers”, explained Sandy Starr, the deputy director of the Progress Educational Trust.

Check the News every Thursday for this weekly commercial news round-up. Prefer to listen to your commercial news? Why not check out our Commercial Connect podcast?

Follow LawCareers.Net on X, LinkedIn, and Instagram for regular business news updates.