The University of Oxford says it will continue two ongoing partnership projects with Huawei but has decided to suspend other new research grants and donations from the Chinese telecoms giant amid growing security concerns about the company.
A university spokesman on Friday confirmed a South China Morning Post report that a decision against Huawei had been made last week.
“Oxford University decided on January 8 this year that it will not pursue new funding opportunities with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd or its related group companies at present. Huawei has been notified of the decision, which the university will keep under review. The decision applies both to the funding of research contracts and of philanthropic donations,” the spokesman said.
“The decision has been taken in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei. We hope these matters can be resolved shortly and note Huawei’s own willingness to reassure governments about its role and activities,” he added.
The Post also reported that the Committee to Review Donations – part of the university’s Council Secretariat – would review the decision in three to six months.
The spokesman confirmed that Oxford currently had two ongoing partnerships with Huawei worth a total of £692,000 (US$893,500), which were approved by the university “before current levels of uncertainty arose”.
In a statement released on Friday morning, Huawei said it had not been informed by Oxford of the decision and was expecting a “full explanation” from the institution.
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“As a private, employee-owned technology company with a strong track record in R&D we believe partnership decisions should, like research, be evidence-based,” the Huawei statement said.
“We have operated in the UK since 2001, employ 1,500 people here and have long-standing collaborations with 20 other UK universities, working with them to research the technologies of the future.”
In recent years, Huawei has poured several million pounds into funding research at British universities as part of its annual global research and development budget, which it said last year would be increased to between US$15 billion and US$20 billion.
In 2013, Huawei pledged £10 million worth of funding to be split between telecommunications research projects at six British universities by 2017.
In December, British lawmakers urged universities to exercise “extreme caution” in accepting funds from Huawei in the face of mounting international concerns over the company’s alleged threat to national security in various countries.
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When contacted on Friday, other British universities said they had no plans to sever funding ties with Huawei.
The Universities of York and Manchester said they did not intend to drop existing research partnerships with Huawei. But a spokesperson for the University of Manchester added that it would “monitor the developments”.
Imperial College London, meanwhile, said such funding continued to be subject to review.
“Such funding continues to be subject to the college’s robust relationship review and gift acceptance policies, where relationships and projects are reviewed at appropriate times,” said a spokesperson for the college, which built a big data innovation lab with Huawei funds.
The University of Southampton, which received £500,000 from Huawei in 2013 for a sound engineering lab, said it was aware of Oxford’s decision and was reviewing its policy.
“We plan to continue working with Huawei but we will keep this under review as we do regularly with the wide range of other domestic and international partners with whom we have a formal relationship,” a Southampton spokesman said.
Huawei, one of China’s leading telecoms firms, is facing a host of allegations led by the US including spying, intellectual property theft and violating US sanctions against Iran.
Washington is seeking the extradition from Canada of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, over possible sanctions violations, and the company is also under scrutiny for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US partner firms including T-Mobile US.
In interviews with Chinese state media published on Friday, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei expressed confidence that the company could weather the storm and defended its track record on intellectual property.
“We have gone through several major lawsuits in the US,” Ren said. “The good results [of the lawsuits] is strong support to show Huawei certainly respects other people’s intellectual property.”