A new Huawei facility intended to progress research and development on chips is now reportedly set to be built in the UK. The research center will eventually become the Chinese tech giant’s international headquarters of optoelectronics business if everything goes smoothly. For clarity, the technology is typically used in fiber optic communication systems. Those, in turn, are typically implemented in data centers or as part of network infrastructure build-outs.
With regard to the facility itself, Huawei says it plans to put no less than £1 billion into that. And that’s just for the first phase of development. The 50,000-square-foot compound will eventually employ as many as 300 to 400 people. Presumably, that will include a significant number of employment for local workers and talent brought in.
If that estimate is accurate, the facility will boost Huawei’s UK workforce from around 1,600 workers to between 1,900 and 2,000 workers.
Huawei says that it will position the facility in Sawston. That’s just a few miles from the Cambridge city center — where companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and ARM also operate.
What is Huawei saying about its new UK research facility?
No exact timeline has been given for the build-out and finalization of the new Huawei research facility in the UK. And it isn’t immediately clear either when it will become fully operational. In the meantime, Huawei has released a statement via its vice president, Victor Zhang.
Mr. Zhang indicates that the location for the companies new “integrated innovation campus” will suit the companies goals perfectly. Not only does the UK offer up some of the “best talent” in the world, but it also allows for close collaboration with those. Including those at research institutes, universities, and local industry.
Huawei’s underlying goals, according to the company’s VP, are to advance the communication industry as a whole. Working with the UK is one part of that, particularly where optical communications technology is concerned. It will also, Mr. Zhang elaborates, help promote the nation’s “broader Industrial Strategy,” helping to “enshrine” the UK’s lead in those technologies.
With those goals in mind, a local council for the region — the South Cambridgeshire District Council — approved the first phase of the project. Nine voters in the tally approved of the measure with one dissenting vote against.
This represents quite a lot of support in stark opposition to Huawei’s global troubles
Now, Huawei’s reputation globally has not necessarily aligned with the council’s decision in this case. Or at least with the exception of the lone dissenter. The US and Huawei have effectively been locked in a heated debate over the past several years as part of a larger battle between the US and China.
That has resulted in harsh consequences for the company in the US. In particular, Huawei was added to an Entity List in 2019 that prevents it from doing business with US companies. That’s continued on a rollercoaster of sanctions and reprieves, as some attempt to convince the government that Huawei and its networking merits are needed. While others are convinced that Huawei is spying for the Chinese authorities.
None of the evidence against the company has technically been made public and Huawei has denied the claims. But that hasn’t stopped not just the US but also its allies from deciding not to do business with it either. In part because of threats that the US would impose further consequences on those nations that do.
That’s caused further mayhem, alongside ongoing global health concerns, for Huawei and other companies. For example, Taiwanese manufacturer TSMC has moved some production to the US and agreed not to sell parts to Huawei. That’s despite Huawei being its biggest client.
So moving to secure its position even as some in the UK argue against Huawei being allowed to operate or to what extent is likely a smart move. At very least in terms of investing in the future to continue building on its 20-year tenure in the region.