Huawei is giving $300 million a year to universities, but there's a catch

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Over the next five to 10 years, the company will give $300 million a year to university labs “with no conditions attached.”

Photo: GillyBerlin.

Huawei is launching a global research strategy aiming to gain ground on US dominance in global technology research.

Last April, the Chinese multinational technology company created a new division called the Institute of Strategic Research to boost its research and development. During an event hosted by the MIT Technology Review, Xu Wenwei, the institute’s president, announced that the division seeks to take Huawei into its next phase, called “Innovation 2.0,” through advanced fundamental research on information and communications technology.

To achieve this goal, over the next five to 10 years, the company will give $300 million a year to university labs from all over the world. The company said it will not ask for returns or a share of the IP from labs that accept its funding. But there is a catch. 

Huawei will invest in research in particular areas only, including optical computing, algorithms, and more efficient databases. Research that will then “feed back into Huawei’s products, perhaps helping turn its smartphones into intelligent devices for monitoring and processing biometric health data,” said Xu Wenwei. “Once professors publish their papers, we will know the most cutting-edge direction in the field. Then we will be able to use engineering innovation to turn that knowledge into products.”

With this investment, the company seeks to forge alliances with international research universities after top universities like Stanford, Oxford, Berkeley, and MIT announced they would cut ties with Huawei after repeated warnings from the Trump administration about alleged intellectual property and spying risks. 

The announcement comes during turbulent times, when China’s relationship with the United States became tense after President Donald Trump threatened to issue more restrictions on the company, while many Chinese-American scientists are facing racial profiling.

Nevertheless, the company’s effort to create new channels for cutting-edge research will continue through this new division and the Huawei Innovation Research Program (HIRP) by funding opportunities to research universities and research institutes. According to the website, HIRP “seeks to identify and support world-class, full-time faculty members pursuing innovation of mutual interest.”

The company has opened submission processes for several research programs on different subjects, including Blockchain, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, cloud networking, optical technology, wireless communication technology, and others.