Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States over allegations of skirting Iran sanctions, recently submitted an article to Japan-based magazine Nikkei Asian Review, defending Huawei’s funding to top universities around the world. She revealed in her article that Huawei has provided funds to most of the top 100 universities around the world.
According to Nikkei, Meng’s article was adapted from an unpublished speech she gave in Singapore last year, then provided to Nikkei in the wake of Oxford University’s recent announcement that they would refuse any future Huawei donations in light of recent public concerns about potential security loopholes.
Based on the timing and subject matter, it is likely that the speech was during Meng’s appearance at the World Academic Summit held last September.
According to Meng, Huawei initiated the “Huawei Innovation Research Program” (HIRP) in 2010 to foster collaborations with universities. This program provides “a virtual coffee shop” where Huawei’s employees “can exchange ideas with universities and research institutes around the world,” she wrote in the article.
Meng claims that “Huawei is not after our partners’ patents or research results.” While explaining the company’s vision for the HIRP programs, she talks about “open collaboration” between academic and industry in order to ensure innovations get adapted into commercial applications, noting that HIRP “funds proposals that offer the greatest potential.”
“Our goal is only to learn from researchers’ successes and failures,” she wrote.
But U.S. officials have recently warned against exactly these types of “partnerships” that have led to academic espionage.
For example, Liu Ruopeng, who came to the United States to study for a doctoral degree at Duke University, stole key technology and data from his professor’s “invisibility cloak” lab, then returned to China to established his own company—using information from the Duke lab. Chinese governmental entities have invested millions in his Chinese startup.
The National Institutes of Health also recently issued a report warning how Chinese expat recruitment programs have targeted ethnic Chinese scientists working in the United States—in order to direct them into stealing intellectual property and transferring it to China.
Meng also divulged the scope of Huawei’s partnerships with academic institutions under HIRP: “closely with most of the world’s top 100 universities and with scholars at 50 national laboratories in more than 30 countries.”
“To date, the program has funded 1,200 projects,” she wrote.
Meng did not mention her pending court case in the article.
Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities in December 2018 for allegedly lying about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom Tech, a firm that sold tech equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. Meng was released on bail and is awaiting an extradition hearing.
On Jan. 28, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed court indictments against Meng and Huawei, offering more details about her alleged wrongdoing.