Huawei Approved To Build £1 Billion Research Centre In Cambridge

Huawei Technologies will build a $1.2 billion research facility in Cambridgeshire, despite the fact that it faces an uncertain future in the UK.

The Chinese networking giant announced that the new “state-of-the-art R&D and manufacturing centre” has approved by the local council, and will be located in the heart of the UK’s ‘Silicon Fen’.

The new centre will be spread over nine acres, and will “focus on researching, developing, and manufacturing optoelectronics products.”

Huawei centre

It worth noting that in 2018 Huawei acquired 500 acres of land in Cambridge, and the site is located at the former Spicers paper mill and production facility located to the west of the large village of Sawston.

“Huawei will invest £1 billion in the first phase of the project, which includes construction of 50,000 square meters of facilities across nine acres of land and will directly create around 400 local jobs,” said the Chinese firm.

“Once fully operational, it will become the international headquarters of Huawei’s optoelectronics business,” it added. “This investment will be a major boost for high tech development in the region, helping to further cement Cambridge as a global innovation hub.”

Huawei said that the first phase of the project will focus on the research, development, and manufacturing of optical devices and modules. Essentially optoelectronics is a key technology used in fibre optic communication systems commonly used in data centres and network infrastructure around the world.

“The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer,” said Victor Zhang, VP of Huawei. “It’s the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus.”

“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,” said Zhang. “Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK’s leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale.”

Status review

Earlier this month Huawei touted its commitment to the UK, as it marked 20 years of presence in the British market.

The UK’s Government however has said it would review Huawei’s status, and officials are undertaking a new security review of the firm.

It comes after it was finally decided in January this to give Huawei approval to participate in the roll-out of 5G networks in the UK.

That previous deal had allowed Huawei to supply technology for non-core parts of the network, with its participation capped at 35 percent, and it was excluded from critical parts of the network (military sites etc).

But amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for the UK to become less reliant on China for goods.

UK ban?

Huawei has always insisted it is a private company that is owned 100 percent by its employees, and is not linked to the Chinese state.

It denies it is a national security risk and does not spy for the Chinese state.

But this week the US Department of Defence officially declared that Huawei and a number of other Chinese firms, are backed by the Chinese military.

US officials also point out that under Chinese law, Chinese companies can be ordered to act under the direction of Beijing.

On Thursday, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair warned that the United Kingdom would likely to have follow the United States and ban the firm.

“One of the extraordinary things about 5G is that the West has in a way just allowed this advantage, this superiority to be gained,” Blair said at a Reuters event. “It is very hard for us not to be with the US on anything that touches US security.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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