Huawei has unveiled plans to plough more than $300m into university labs as it seeks to boost its research and development and reduce its dependence on US suppliers.
The embattled Chinese tech giant’s smartphone sales fell by 40 per cent last month as fresh sanctions forced American businesses to stop trading with the company.
The Trump administration has warned that the firm poses a threat to national security, while Huawei claims it has been caught in the cross fire of the US-China trade war.
But in April, anticipating further sanctions, the company launched a new division called the Institute of Strategic Research, which over the next five to 10 years will provide universities around the world with a total of $300m in unrestricted research funding.
The aim of the project, which was first reported by MIT Technology Review, is to create new channels for cutting-edge research that will eventually make its way into Huawei products.
“Once professors publish their papers, we will know the most cutting-edge direction in the field,” Xu Wenwei told the publication. “Then we will be able to use engineering innovation to turn that knowledge into products.”
Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how it will decide to distribute the funding. Although the funding does not provide any restrictions on researchers’ work, it is likely to attract scrutiny.
Oxford University vowed to stop taking donations from the company earlier this year as fears grew over Huawei’s alleged corporate espionage and links to the Chinese government, allegations Huawei denies.
The move was highly unusual. Over the last five years, the university has accepted several million pounds from tech companies and not turned down a single offer of funding from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple or Microsoft, as NS Tech revealed last month.
A spokesperson for Oxford said in January that the university “will not pursue new funding opportunities with Huawei at present. The decision has been taken in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei.”
The move came after MPs and academics raised concerns about the donations. Professor Anthony Glees, the director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, told the Telegraph in December: “This is about the electronic agenda being driven by the injection of Chinese money into British universities; that is a national security issue.”