UK Blocks Chinese Acquisition of Smart Camera Technology in 1st Use of National Security Law

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
July 21, 2022 Updated: July 22, 2022

The UK has blocked a Chinese company from acquiring smart camera technology from a British university, in the first use of the government’s new national security powers.

British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced on July 20 that he had issued an order (pdf) under the National Security and Investment Act to block Beijing Infinite Vision Technology Co. (BIVT) from buying the vision-sensing technology from the University of Manchester.

The SCAMP-5 and SCAMP-7 vision-sensing technology, developed by the university’s Innovation Factory, can enable new embedded vision applications in areas such as robotics, virtual reality, automotive industries, toys, and surveillance.

The attempted intellectual property transfer would have allowed the Chinese firm to develop, test, manufacture, use, and sell licenced products.

According to the government decision blocking the acquisition, the business secretary considered the technology to have “dual-use applications,” meaning it can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

‘Necessary and Proportionate’

“There is potential that the technology could be used to build defence or technological capabilities which may present national security risk to the United Kingdom,” the order says.

Blocking the deal is, therefore, “necessary and proportionate to mitigate the risk to national security,” it said.

The University of Manchester said it had followed due processes and would abide by the government’s decision.

“We have thorough internal processes in place to look at proposed international agreements,” a spokesperson for the university told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “These were followed in this case and, in line with the legislation, we voluntarily referred this agreement to the UK government. We will, of course, abide by the decision that has been made.”

Representatives of BIVT didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Security Concerns

The National Security and Investment Act, which came into force on Jan. 4, is said to be the biggest shake-up of the UK’s national security regime in 20 years.

The act grants new powers to the government to scrutinise and intervene in certain acquisitions made by anyone—including businesses and investors—that could harm the UK’s national security.

Under the law, Kwarteng also is currently presiding over an investigation into the takeover of Newport Wafer Fab by Nexperia, a Netherlands-based subsidiary of the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Wingtech Technology.

The sale of Britain’s biggest microchip plant, which has 450 employees, to the Chinese drew ire and disbelief inside the UK and elsewhere, especially from across the Atlantic, where nine U.S. congressmen, including the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), signed a letter in April demanding “urgent action” by the UK government to halt the acquisition.

The takeover “serves as a critical test case” of Britain’s willingness to “address a shared security concern regarding critical technology,” the letter said.

Peter Simpson and Reuters contributed to this report.