£3bn R&D boost for UK plc: Up, up and Huawei on the Science Park
Chinese telecoms giant to invest in UK tech, IP and services, confirms CEO of R&D
Following the news that Chinese investment is being channelled into Trinity’s £200million redevelopment comes confirmation that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has a £3billion R&D investment pot for UK technology, IP and services. The deal, to be spread over five years, was confirmed by Huawei’s chairwoman Sun Yafang during Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent visit to Beijing.
The three-day trade trip also brought in £9.3billion worth of trade deals which May said was a tribute to “the drive and innovation of UK business”.
Huawei already has a footprint in Cambridge, having set up shop on the Science Park in 2015. Henk Koopmans, chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies Research & Development (UK), is based on the park.
“It’s very good news,” Koopmans told the Cambridge Independent. “A lot of that £3billion will be used to do business with UK companies.”
“This year is going to be really fascinating for applications and there will be new business models emerging,” he added.
The firm has made steady progress on the park, where the new Biohub is starting to be built.
“The park as a footprint is just a very nice place to do business and to go to work in,” Koopmans said of the hub.
Huawei was funded in 1987 as a network telecoms company, manufacturing phone switches. Today, Henk explains it is “the largest network communications equipment company in the world”. Its own-brand mobile phone sold 156 million units last year and only Samsung sells more mobile phones globally – Apple is third. US revenue for 2017 was $92billion.
“We’ve been in the UK for 16 years,” Koopmans continued. “We started in Reading, which is where we now do marketing and delivery. In the last five or six years we’ve really started to develop our R&D ideas. This began with the acquisition of the Centre for Integrated Photonics in Ipswich.”
The centre is located on a former BT site, and these ties were strengthened last year when the two telecoms giants forged a £25million joint research and collaboration group with the University of Cambridge.
“We have four R&D locations in the UK. In Ipswich it’s looking at ultra-high speed communications – we’re working towards 5G now. In Bristol it’s microprocessors, in Cambridge we’re largely specialising in the Internet of Things (IoT), and our London site opened a few weeks ago, that’s for AI [artifical intelligence].”
Huawei, which employs 170,000 people, has 21 R&D sites across the globe and last year spent $12billion on R&D projects.
“We’ve expanded,” said Koopmans, who’s from the Netherlands and has been in Cambridge for 30 years, starting with Symbionics. “Huawei was maybe not the first on to the Science Park but definitely saw it as a place they wanted to be, not just a place we happened to be in.
“We now have a team of 101 people here on two sites: there’s 60 people here.”
“Here” is number 302, where the research happens. It was once home to IoT firm Neul, whom Huawei acquired for £25million in 2014.
“Neul needed the money and Huawei needed the technology,” Koopmans, who joined the firm in 2015, explains. “They asked me to come in to help with the merger process. We quickly ramped up from 35 to 60 people and there’s 40 people in Shanghai working on it as well.”
Huawei’s narrowband IoT solution, NB-IoT, is now the industry standard.
“With Huawei we have access and network customers in 170 countries so everything is in place to roll out very quickly. So in 2018 we’re looking to commercialise our device solution, that can be anything that needs connectivity at a nationwide level, with battery power that lasts for years.”
Up, up and Huawei...
More by this authorMike Scialom