Imperial College London, currently in the headlines for its modelling of the spread of COVID-19 across the UK, has signed a five-year collaboration deal with controversial Chinese tech outfit Huawei.
The tie-up, reportedly worth £5m, will see Huawei’s indoor 5G network equipment and “AI cloud platform” installed at the college’s West London tech campus, as well sponsorship by the Chinese firm of Imperial’s Venture Catalyst entrepreneurship competition.
Huawei is currently under US sanctions as the desperate Western superpower fights a rearguard action to prevent Huawei from dominating its teleco hardware markets. American government policy is to say that Huawei poses a security threat, something the rest of the world hasn’t agreed with .
Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost of Imperial College, said in a canned statement: “We work to be at the cutting edge of discoveries and technologies for societal benefit. Our partnership with Huawei has already yielded considerable benefits, and we look forward to expanding this collaboration further.”
Back in 2014, Huawei entered a partnership with data scientists from Imperial, which appears to have seeded the ground for a long-running collaboration.
Walmsley’s academic colleague, Professor Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial’s Business School, added: “Huawei’s expertise in wireless technology will help our researchers, students and partner enterprises to lead the next generation of digital innovations.”
The college’s latest deal, announced to coincide with a planned academic conference, is unlikely to win it much public support. In April, MPs from the ruling Conservative Party were deeply unimpressed with UK veep Victor Zhang’s boasts that Huawei was doing well in spite of “groundless criticism”, prompting demands from backbenchers for the government to “stop kowtowing” to China.
Some Western institutions quietly untyed their links with Huawei rather than strengthening them. Oxford University, for example, halted all its Huawei funding in January 2019.