Huawei to open $200m R&D centre in UK

Chinese infrastructure vendor Huawei has confirmed plans to open a research and development centre in the UK, as part of the firm’s $2bn investment commitment to the nation. The news was confirmed by Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei as he met with UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at the vendor’s headquarters in Shenzhen this week.

Huawei said that total investment in the centre will be $200m; it currently employs over 80 R&D engineers in its existing UK office in Ipswich but has now pledged to employ a total of 300 staff in high-tech R&D positions in the UK by 2017.

Research at the centre will focus on optoelectronics, device design and software development; its location will be announced at a later date.

“The UK is home to some of the best high-tech professionals in the world,” said Ren. “Their creativity is a major asset to our R&D efforts, helping us produce the most advanced and competitive telecoms and broadband services available. Combined with an open and free-trade economy, this makes it a very good investment environment for Huawei. I have every confidence in Huawei’s future in the UK.”

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Osborne added that the relationship between the UK and China’s technology companies is “one of the most exciting opportunities for collaboration” between the two nations.

Huawei pledged its $2bn investment to the UK in September last year, adding that it would invest £650m in ten “global centres of technical and financial excellence”, including group-wide research and development facilities. It will also double its procurement over next five years, by committing to procure £650m on products and services in the country.

The firm also committed to contributing to the national broadband strategy and the delivery of fibre-based fixed line networks and LTE mobile networks. The firm established a design centre for its handset and tablet devices in London earlier in 2012

However, in October last year, the US House Intelligence Committee warned US operators not to trust ZTE and Huawei, saying that the US “should view with suspicion the continued penetration of the US telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications companies”.

And then in June this year, the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee also criticised fixed line incumbent BT in a report for allowing Huawei’s equipment to be embedded in the heart of the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) and failing to consult ministers beforehand.

On a visit to New Zealand in May, Ren maintained that none of Huawei’s staff would engage in spying, even if asked to by Chinese security agencies. He added that the vendor is not in a position to collect operators’ network data in the US in any case.

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