Technology Jun 26

Huawei defies US to win backing for chip R&D centre in UK

Despite lobbying from US officials and conservative politicians in UK, local authority overwhelmingly approves plans to build on 500-acre site

by Nadeem Xu
Huawei defies US to win backing for chip R&D centre in UK
More chips: An artist’s impression of the planned GBP1bn Huawei R&D centre in the UK. Photo: Huawei 

(ATF) Huawei has been given the nod to is build a state-of-the-art optoelectronics research and development centre in the UK, despite a swirling row over the use of Chinese firm’s technology in Britian.

The centre was given planning permission in an overwhelming 9-1 vote by local authority lawmakers near Cambridge, in the east of England. The site will focus on the research, development and manufacture of chips.

The Chinese company said it had acquired 500 acres (2.02 sq km) of land near the ancient university city in 2018 and the Thursday’s approval was given for the first phase of the Huawei Campus.

Huawei will invest GBP1 billion ($1.2bn) in the first phase of the project, which includes construction of 50,000 sqm of facilities, and will directly create about 400 local jobs, the company said.

READ MORE: Huawei launches UK charm offensive

Optoelectronics is a key technology used in fibre optic communication systems and this investment aims to bring the best of such technology to data centers and network infrastructure around the world, according to Huawei.

"It's the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus,” said vice president Victor Zhang. “Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK's broader Industrial Strategy."

The company has been operating in the British market for about two decades. It employs 1,600 people in Britain and supplies telecoms network equipment to all the major mobile and broadband service providers in the country.

But its label as a national security threat in the US has been echoed by conservative politicians in the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved Huawei’s limited involvement in building out the country’s 5G network.

Johnson is under pressure from some of his ministers and others in his ruling Conservative Party to prevent the Shenzhen-based giant from operating within UK borders.

They have found support in US officials, who have been lobbying for the rejection of the chip design centre.

“We believe countries need to be able to trust that partners will not threaten national security, privacy, intellectual property, or human rights,” the US state department said in a statement to the Financial Times newspaper. “Trust cannot exist where a company such as Huawei is subject to an authoritarian government, like the PRC [People’s Republic of China], that lacks an independent judiciary or rule of law that would effectively prohibit the misuse of data.”

READ MORE: Why the US is losing its war against Huawei