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Huawei to build £1bn R&D centre in Cambridgeshire

Jasper Hart
June 26, 2020

Facility to create 400 jobs

Huawei has received permission to build a £1 billion chip research and manufacturing facility in Cambridgeshire.

The manufacturer will use the brownfield site to the west of the village of Sawston to manufacture semiconductor technology across 50,000 square metres of facilities. The technology is aimed at speeding up data transmission over fibre optic networks, a process known as optoelectronics.

Huawei intends to make this site its international headquarters for optoelectronics, creating 400 jobs. It claims that optoelectronics is distinct from the equipment targeted by US sanctions.

The announcement comes amid the National Cyber Security Centre’s ongoing review into Huawei’s UK infrastructure equipment, and was heavily criticised by the US State Department.

In a statement to the Financial Times, the State Department said: “We believe countries need to be able to trust that partners will not threaten national security, privacy, intellectual property, or human rights.

“Trust cannot exist where a company such as Huawei is subject to an authoritarian government, like the People’s Republic of China, that lacks an independent judiciary or rule of law that would effectively prohibit the misuse of data.”

The chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, said he had been contacted directly by US administration officials who were concerned about the decision to grant Huawei permission.

Huawei acquired the site for £37.5 million in 2018. The £1 billion figure cited will be spent on the “first phase of the project”, constituting construction costs and workers’ salaries, according to the company.

“The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer,” said Huawei vice president Victor Zhang. “It’s the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus.

“Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK’s broader industrial strategy. Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK’s leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale.”

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