University tie-ups un­leash in­no­va­tion

China Daily (USA) - - FOCUS | BUSINESS - By DAI TIAN in Lon­don

Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co, China’s lead­ing smart­phone and equip­ment maker, made big inroads into Europe by ty­ing up with world-class uni­ver­si­ties in the United King­dom that have been lead­ing the way with in­no­va­tion for decades.

They com­ple­ment Bri­tain’s af­flu­ent mar­ket, easy trans­porta­tion, qual­ity work­force and a re­li­able le­gal en­vi­ron­ment.

Huawei has in­vested close to 10 mil­lion pounds ($12.22 mil­lion) in aca­demic re­search in the UK, rang­ing from 5G, graphene ap­pli­ca­tions and high-speed broad­band to data sci­ence, 3-D au­dio and in­ter­ac­tive mul­ti­me­dia tech­nol­ogy.

The in­vest­ment is part of the $2 bil­lionHuawei has pledged to in­vest in the UK by 2017.

“When it comes to re­search and de­vel­op­ment, com­pa­nies nat­u­rally fo­cus more on the ‘ D’ side (of R&D), and that’s why col­lab­o­rat­ing with uni­ver­si­ties can strengthen their fun­da­men­tal re­search and bridge the gap,” said Deng Zil­iang, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of the School of Busi­ness at Ren­min University of China.

Ed­ward Brew­ster, Huawei’s head of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, said: “Now with more than 20 col­lab­o­ra­tion projects with uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try, we’re con­fi­dent we’ll ex­ceed our com­mit­ment.”

James Baker, busi­ness di­rec­tor for the Na­tional Graphene In­sti­tute at the University of Manch­ester, said: “We first got in touch with Huawei vi­aNo­bel lau­re­ateKostyaNovoselov.”

Two pro­fes­sors of the university were awarded the prize in physics in 2010 for their ground­break­ing iso­la­tion of graphene, a thin layer of pure car­bon, tougher than a di­a­mond, yet light­weight and flex­i­ble. It al­lows elec­trons to glow up to 100 times faster than in sil­i­con, and is there­fore seen as a “won­der ma­te­rial”.

Huawei signed an ini­tial two-year re­search project with the university in Oc­to­ber last year, ex­plor­ing graphene’s ap­pli­ca­tions in con­sumer elec­tron­ics.

“The project is run­ning well in bring­ing to­gether academia re­search and mar­ket demand,” said Baker, ad­ding that Huawei’s R&D team is work­ing closely with the 250 re­searchers on cam­pus through reg­u­lar progress-shar­ing ses­sions.

The jointly built 5G In­no­va­tion Cen­ter at the University of Sur­rey was an­other high-pro­file deal Huawei signed in Septem­ber last year.

Keith Rob­son, COO of the cen­ter, said: “The 5GIC uses state-of-the-art Huawei equip­ment to pro­vide an ad­vanced 4G ar­chi­tec­ture which is grad­u­ally be­ing de­vel­oped on-site to­ward a full 5G stan­dard.”

Re­search on au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies and the in­ter­net of things is con­tin­u­ing.

Later this month, Im­pe­rial Col­legeLon­don­willun­veil a data anal­y­sis sys­tem for pre­ci­sion health­care, backed byHuawei’s en­ter­prise com­put­ing servers, ac­cord­ing to Guo Yike, di­rec­tor of the university’s Data Sci­ence In­sti­tute.

Gu­o­saidHuawei stands out for its stance that im­me­di­ate re­turns are not es­sen­tial. “Huawei won’t fund any or­di­nary university, and nei­ther in it­self is it any or­di­nary com­pany.”

TheUniver­sity of Ox­for­dandHuawei are “nat­u­ral part­ners”, said Nick Raw­lines, the pro-vice-chancellor for de­vel­op­ment and ex­ter­nal af­fairs, given “the com­pany’s in­no­va­tive busi­ness struc­ture and Ox­ford’s bot­tom-up man­age­ment ap­proach”.

Jo­hannes Benedikt, a pro­fes­sor at the University of Cardiff, worked on a re­search pro­gram on high-speed broad­band. “What I value most in Huawei is its long-term vi­sion on solv­ing prob­lems for the fu­ture.”

Ren­min University’s Deng said: “AsChi­nese firms move be­yond buy­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing glob­ally, in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion on the R&D side is the next cru­cial step.”

How­ever, Li Qi, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in ap­plied eco­nom­ics of Pek­ing University, voiced con­cerns that it would be dif­fi­cult for smaller firms to repli­cateHuawei’s strat­egy.

“Cap­i­tal would be a ma­jor chal­lenge. In 2015, Huawei’s R&D ex­pense sur­passed Cisco by $3 bil­lion. That’s a lux­ury smaller play­ers can’t af­ford,” Li said.

In 2015, Huawei’s R&D ex­pense sur­passed Cisco by $3 bil­lion.” as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in ap­plied eco­nom­ics at Pek­ing University

Li Qi,

amount in­vested by Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd in tie-ups with UK uni­ver­si­ties

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