The European Union (EU) has allocated funding to Huawei, a Chinese technology group, to conduct advanced research on next-generation communication systems.
This decision comes despite several European governments having banned Huawei from their telecoms networks due to security fears. Huawei's involvement in multiple sensitive projects, including artificial intelligence, 6G, and cloud computing, has raised concerns, considering the EU's push for stricter restrictions on the company.
Under the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, Huawei has been identified as a participant in 11 projects, receiving up to 14% of funding per scheme, totaling €3.89 million. This not only highlights the financial support but also places Huawei at the core of critical technologies in Europe, even as around a third of EU countries have taken steps to exclude "high-risk vendors" from their 5G infrastructure.
Huawei's role in these EU-backed research projects involves providing infrastructure equipment and AI platforms. The projects cover various areas, such as quantum sensing, connectivity, and the development of an autonomous driving framework. However, analysts have cautioned that Huawei's participation could compromise data security within the bloc and hinder the EU's aim to achieve self-reliance in critical technological infrastructure.
John Strand, the founder of Danish consultancy Strand Consult, compared Huawei's participation to inviting an untrusted individual into sensitive offices, emphasizing potential risks to Europe's security and the EU's pursuit of self-autonomy. Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, head of science, technology, and innovation at Germany's Mercator Institute for China Studies, expressed astonishment at Huawei's selection for projects involving sensitive technologies and questioned the screening process, highlighting the absence of any red flags.
Despite the UK government's directive for telecoms groups to remove Huawei's 5G equipment from networks, the UK has contributed €900,000 to one of the EU projects focusing on sensing technologies for machine-to-machine communication. Portugal is also contemplating excluding Huawei from its 5G core network build, joining countries like Denmark and Sweden in taking similar measures. The European Commission has warned of potential legislation to prohibit high-risk groups from participating in 5G projects if other EU member states fail to tighten their national regulations.
Stéphane Téral, chief analyst of market research company LightCounting, remarked that these collaborations demonstrate Europe's inability to sever ties with Huawei in the near future. In addition to the 11 Horizon Europe projects receiving EU funding, Huawei is participating in two additional programs without direct grants. According to the commission, the funding received by Huawei accounts for less than 1% of the total funding allocated to 6G, AI, and cloud computing-related research programs under Horizon Europe.
Huawei stated that it has participated in over 30 programs within the EU's flagship research and development framework since 2007. The company emphasized the importance of international cooperation and highlighted that its involvement in Horizon Europe underwent independent evaluation by EU-selected panels of experts and received official approval.
One of the projects Huawei is engaged in focuses on building a high-security framework for the safety of connected cars and autonomous driving. Partners in this endeavor include US chipmaker Intel, Japanese automotive parts supplier Denso, and Stellantis, the world's fourth-largest carmaker.
Thanassis Giannetsos, the project coordinator, defended Huawei's participation by stating that the company possesses the expertise required to support the consortium's goal of developing methodologies for future autonomous driving. He acknowledged concerns that some companies and customers may have regarding Huawei's involvement but assured that such concerns were already addressed during the proposal phase.
While Huawei's German subsidiary met the eligibility criteria for participation in the projects, companies were selected based on positive personal experiences, partner recommendations, and alignment with project goals. Requests for comments from coordinators of the other nine projects went unanswered.
By fLEXI tEAM