DCU to maintain ties with controversial tech company Huawei

Aoife O'Brien

DCU is maintaining links with Huawei, despite top universities globally severing connections with the company.

Despite recent concerns over the firm’s cybersecurity DCU, Trinity College, University College Cork and University College Dublin, who have significant academic linkages with Huawei, intend to continue these partnerships, according to The Times UK.

Huawei is one of the world’s largest investors in research and development, investing 15 per cent of its annual revenue of around $93billion in research and development both internally and in collaboration with universities and research centres.

With Huawei now the world’s largest provider of telecoms equipment, the US government has been raising concerns over the company’s presence in its smartphone market for several years and has declared the devices to be a potential threat to its national security. However, it’s not clear whether the company represents a genuine threat or if this is a geopolitical issue.

Following the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into US law in August, the University of California at Berkley and San Diageo became two of the first schools to temporarily sever ties with the telecommunication giant in order to avoid losing federal funding. The new law is part of a broader strategy to counter what the US government sees as China’s growing threat to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Queens University in Belfast and Oxford University in England have since become the latest universities to suspend Huawei as a research sponsor but this decision does not impact existing research projects. Queens University currently has one project with the company while Oxford University’s contracts have combined funding of £692,000.

Some 17 UK universities receive funding from Huawei and despite the moves of Oxford and Queens Universities a number of UK universities with Huawei-funded collaborations have reiterated their commitment to Huawei contracts. They include the University of Edinburgh, the University of Surrey, Imperial College London, the University of Manchester and others.

According to Huawei, their Huawei Innovation Research Program (HIRP) which was launched in 2010 has funded some 1,200 research projects in over 20 countries from more than 300 third level institutions, including projects from most of the world’s top 100 universities.

This includes a collaboration with the ADAPT Research Centre, led out of Trinity College Dublin and incorporating researchers at DCU, UCD and DIT. With the support of Huawei, the centre won the ‘Outstanding Academic Achievement of the Year’ category at the 26th Annual Technology Ireland Industry Awards in November of last year for their advert creation system.

Despite countries such as Australia and New Zealand, banning Huawei from competing for their 5G networks, they appear to be continuing with university research collaborations including a new joint academy with Southern Cross University which opened in December 2018.

When asked whether the Government here is considering following other countries on the issue, a spokesperson for its Department of Communications said the statutory independence telecoms regulator Comreg, is responsible for compliance in this area.

However, a Comreg spokesman denied the agency’s responsibility saying that Huawei does not fall under its authorisation procedures as it does not operate a telecom network or service in Ireland.

Aoife O’Brien

Image Credit: Wikipedia