Huawei bringing R&D centre to Bristol, George Osborne loves it

By Peter Gothard
10 Jun 2014 View Comments

Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei has announced it is opening an R&D centre in Bristol, which will initially seek to recruit 30 "high-caliber" employees.

The centre is opening as part of what Huawei calls its "UK Innovation Program", which also includes an optoelectronics R&D office in Ipswich. Together, the Bristol and Ipswich facilities will employ 300 by 2017.

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Huawei "rotating" CEO Guo Ping – the company has a policy of rotating top executives – said the UK is "forward-thinking, progressive, and fostering innovation".

"This creativity is a major asset to our R&D efforts and gives us the perfect platform to continue pioneering the new, ground-breaking technologies that are building the future. We are committed to working with our customers and partners in the UK to leverage our global presence and customer-centric approach to innovation, bringing value to the UK ICT industry and helping its products and technologies go global," Ping continued.

Huawei sales have recently been hit by security concerns, especially in the US.

Charles Ding, chief Huawei representative in the US, recently told China Daily that the company's strategy in the US isn't "exactly the same" as it was, saying that it is now chasing lower-margin unit sales, rather than trying to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The company's enterprise sales in the US took a hit after October 2012, when the US House Intelligence Committee found that Huawei and ZTE were both guilty of stealing intellectual property from US companies, as well as building equipment that could be used for spying on the US.

In December 2013, the UK's GCHQ spy centre announced it would be keeping a closer eye on Huawei for similar reasons of national security.

However, suspicions of spying and industrial espionage on the part of Huawei were obviously far from Chancellor George Osborne's mind when he hailed the company's latest investment in the UK.

"The decision of the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker to innovate in Britain is testament to the outstanding quality of our highly skilled workforce... and that our long-term plan is working," Osborne said.

While not exactly a glowing endorsement of Huawei itself, the fact Osborne is now willing to use its name as part of a political spin campaign in the skills sector must be positive news for a relationship that was once on such shaky ground.

Huawei plans to employ a total of 1,500 people across its 15 UK offices by 2017.

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