Huawei, Imperial College announce big data joint venture

The Chinese networking equipment maker and one of the world's top ten schools plan to develop a joint technology center, in efforts to understand the wider capabilities of big data.

Imperial West, a new seven-acre research campus in White City, London, which could be home to the future joint Imperial-Huawei research center. Image: Imperial

Imperial College London, in conjunction with Huawei, have signed a memorandum of understanding to consider developing a research and innovation center tasked with pursuing next-generation big data technologies.

Imperial and Huawei plan to create, with assistance from the U.K. government, a hub for business experts and academic researchers to develop innovations and applications in digital, energy, healthcare, future cities, and life sciences areas. 

The London-based world-leading university and the Chinese networking equipment maker will spend the year fleshing out the details of the proposed joint center, which under current plans will be located in White City, London, at the home of Imperial's new research campus.

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The signing of the agreement by Huawei's enterprise business group chief executive William Xu and Imperial president Sir Keith O'Nions, designed to set out the conditions ahead for the endeavor, comes months after the U.K. parliament began a probed into Huawei's relationship with BT , the U.K.'s largest telecoms and broadband provider. 

The news broke just days after Huawei's chief executive Ren Zhengfei met with British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce the company's intention to invest $2 billion (£1.3bn) into the country's economy.

The parliamentary intelligence and security committee found no evidence that Huawei's technologies contained instruments that would enable Chinese espionage — a claim hinted at by U.S. political counterparts , which all but banned Huawei from operating stateside — but did warn the government that it could not be complacent from foreign cyberthreats.

In comments, Xu said research and development has "always been a top priority for Huawei," and would fit in with the company's bid to expand in the U.K. 

Universities and science minister David Willets MP applauded the move that will "keep the U.K. as a global leader in big data." He added: "

 As one of the eight great technologies of the future, big data will allow scientists to research and analyse large information sets to support new innovations across industries such as space, bioscience and healthcare."