Oxford blocks Huawei contracts amid security concerns

University spokesman says decision also covers donations but does not affect ongoing partnerships

January 17, 2019
Huawei logo

The University of Oxford has said that it will not accept any new research contracts from Huawei, amid concern about the technology company’s links to the Chinese state.

A university spokesman said that the decision, which also covers any philanthropic donations but does not affect ongoing research contracts, was taken “in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei”.

The company has faced accusations that its products could be used by China for espionage or to disrupt communications. In the UK, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has voiced “deep concerns” about Huawei’s involvement in updating the UK’s mobile communications network to superfast 5G, echoing similar concerns in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Huawei, which has worked with more than 20 UK universities on more than 100 projects in the past five years, has denied that it poses a security risk.

The Oxford spokesman said that the university decided on 8 January “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 decision has been taken in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei,” the spokesman continued. “We hope these matters can be resolved shortly and note Huawei’s own willingness to reassure governments about its role and activities.”

Oxford said that two ongoing projects, with combined funding from Huawei of £692,000, would continue. Both “were approved under the university’s regulatory processes before the current levels of uncertainty arose”, the spokesman said.

A Huawei spokesman said that the company was “not informed” of the decision and awaited Oxford’s “full explanation”.

“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,” he said. “We have operated in the UK since 2001, employ 1,500 people here and have longstanding collaborations with 20 other UK universities, working with them to research the technologies of the future.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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