Huawei splashes out €70m on Helsinki smartphone R&D centre

Huawei is tapping the Finnish capital Helsinki for its next research and development centre, aimed at improving smartphone user experience.

Chinese networking giant Huawei will open a new smartphone research and development facility in Helsinki, tapping Nokia's hometown for software engineers. 

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Huawei confirmed on Monday it will invest €70m over five years to establish the facility, which will initially employ 30 staff and eventually ramp up to 100. 

The company has already appointed 20 staff, a Huawei Nordics spokesman told ZDNet, bringing its total headcount to 50 in Finland (Huawei already has some 30 salespeople in the country).  

The R&D facility will initially focus on software development for Huawei smartphones and later expand to tablets and rich-media devices on both Android and Windows Phone platforms. 

The work will broadly tackle the user experience across both platforms for Huawei devices, targeting improvements in the kernel, power management, browser experience, graphics and the user interface.  

The research will support Huawei's plans to expand its smartphone business, which the company has bullishly predicted will ship 60 million such devices this year, although analysts expect it will ship more in the range of up to 45 million units. 

While it is the world's second largest network equipment manufacturer behind Ericsson, Huawei is not currently a top five player in the global smartphone market. In China it is the fourth placed smartphone vendor, behind frontrunner Samsung, and local rivals ZTE and Lenovo, according to analyst firm Canalys. Still, it achieved year-on-year growth in shipments to China of 252 percent. 

Huawei's spokesman said the facility will be an important arm of its consumer device business, with the company’s chief technology officer and chief of planning and strategy for terminal devices envisaged to be based in Helsinki. 

Huawei's spokesman said Finland's appeal was its ecosystem of world-class education and engineers

While the company could likely find a ready supply of departing software engineers from Nokia, Huawei's spokesman said Finland's appeal was its ecosystem of world-class education and engineers, as well as universities, with which Huawei would look to develop research partnerships in the future. 

Huawei was one of four device manufacturers in the first Windows Phone 8 line-up, but was absent from Microsoft's official launch this September, reportedly due to government pressure following the release of the US House Intelligence Committee report that alleged Huawei was a national security threat. 

The Helsinki centre joins two other Huawei European smartphone research centres in Lund, Sweden and the UK.  

Huawei currently employs 7,000 people across Europe, but has said it plans to expand that to 14,000 over the next few years.