Huawei might lose the United Kingdom 5G market but will never lose its reputation in the so-called hub for telecoms and technology. In 2019, Huawei submitted the first plan to build a Research and Development (R&D) center near Cambridge. On June 25, 2020, Huawei received the permission from Cambridge City Council to construct a 50,000 square meter center to focus on optoelectronics. Despite concerns – water consumption, damage to the environment, and landscape overview – only one councilor out of 10 voted against its development.
“There have been many controversial issues surrounding the application. However, the Cambridge City Council can only take into account the material planning considerations- including planning policies- when it comes to a decision,” said Dr. Tumi Hawkins, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Planning, according to ITV news. “It does not matter who the applicant is, but whether it’s a small, local or multinational company, we have to follow the same rules,” she added.
The international HQ for Huawei’s optoelectronics business will offer 400 job opportunities in the future. In fact, Huawei will benefit from its R&D center strategic location in the heart of Cambridge – considered as the hub of start-ups and PHD graduates. Victor Zhang of Huawei said “It’s the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus” according to Telecoms.com. The Chinese Telecom giant is planning to invest £ 1 billion in the first phase of the project. The center will be built on 500 acres of land purchased for $49.8 million by Henk Koopmans, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Technologies R&D UK, in 2018.
Despite PM Boris Johnson’s decision regarding Huawei’s involvement in UK 5G deployment, it is clear that Huawei is making itself a valuable partner to the United Kingdom. The UK has launched several initiatives to position itself as a center of innovation for next-generation technology, states Zhang. Following the building of its new Research and Development center, Huawei is planning to support the UK’s broader industrial strategy, which includes hubs to develop ecosystems. On the other hand, Huawei’s collaboration with universities, research institutes, and industries will help the UK’s leading position in optoelectronics. Furthermore, the Huawei R&D center will promote UK tech internationally.
Britain’s decision regarding Huawei’s R&D center will open a new debate on trade between the UK and the United States.