Huawei, despite being blacklisted by the US, is funding research in the country

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Huawei has been designated as a national security threat by the US but that hasn’t stopped the Chinese company from secretly funding research at American universities.

Bloomberg reports that Huawei is the only funder of a research competition managed by Washington-based Optica Foundation, a non-profit entity that provides resources to those researching optics and photonics.

The competition first began in 2022 and has awarded millions of dollars. It attracts proposals from scientists the world over, including those from leading US universities that have severed ties with Huawei, such as Harvard.

Optica “shall not be required to designate Huawei as the funding source or program sponsor,” reads a nonpublic document reviewed by Bloomberg. 

Many of the applicants and university officials contacted by the outlet were not aware that Huawei was backing the program. On Optica Foundation’s website, the Huawei-funded competition was revealed to be one awarding the biggest cash prize, but its name is not mentioned as a financial contributor, which isn’t the case for the other 10 opportunities currently listed.The arrangement allows Huawei to remain the primary funder of important international research. A Huawei spokesman said that the Chinese giant and the Optica Foundation started the competition to support international research and promote academic communication. He said that disclosing Huawei’s name would have given the competition a promotional touch, which is why it was kept private.

That contrasts with the approach taken by the company in European countries where it doesn’t shy away from plastering its name on the scientific hubs run by it.

Optica’s CEO Liz Rogan notes that some of the foundation’s donors, including those from the US like to remain anonymous, and “there is nothing unusual about this practice.”

Huawei is among the organization’s highest-level funders who have given more than $1 million since it was founded more than two decades ago. American companies Google and Meta are one of those in the second-highest tier of donors who have awarded $200,000 or more.

The foundation’s policy isn’t believe to violate the US Commerce Department regulations that bar anyone from sharing technology with Huawei. Some of the resulting research may have defence and commercial relevance though and could help the company recruit people by sponsoring those it finds promising and buying intellectual property from their research.


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