Huawei ‘abandons’ plans for £1bn Cambridge research campus
Huawei has quietly shelved plans for a £1bn Cambridge research campus as the embattled Chinese telecoms giant winds down its UK presence.
Huawei had planned to build cutting-edge facilities that would have been used to develop broadband technologies, microchips and artificial intelligence software on the 500 acre site, near the “Silicon Fen” hub.
However ground has still not been broken at the site despite a pledge to finish the first phase of construction by 2021. The Telegraph can disclose that the scheme has been “under review” since the pandemic.
South Cambridgeshire councillors say their requests for information have been met with silence and planning permission for the site is now set to expire in a little over five months.
The apparent mothballing of the project comes after the Government banned Huawei’s equipment from large swathes of Britain’s mobile and broadband networks over concerns it posed a national security risk.
Huawei bought the Cambridge site for £37m in 2018 and gained planning permission in 2020. It originally planned to finish construction of the first phase of its campus by 2021.
Brian Milnes, a local councillor for the Sawston area, where Huawei’s campus was planned, said the company had “gone very quiet” about the scheme despite repeated attempts by himself and others to contact company representatives.
No activity has been seen on the site since planning permission was granted. Permission will expire in August this year unless the company breaks ground on the site.
Mr Miles said: “When I have tried to speak to Huawei about it, I have been met with no response.
“It’s a shame, because generally the development was received well here and the company did a lot of work with the community.
“Unfortunately, political matters seem to have taken their toll. The whole project seems to have ground to a halt.”
Huawei said its review of the Cambridge campus was “ongoing” but declined to say whether it intends to begin work within the next five months.
A spokesman added: “We are aware of the status of the planning application, which we placed under internal review during the pandemic.”
Huawei said it could not find a record of any unanswered correspondence from Mr Milnes or others about the scheme.
The company previously claimed the investment in the Cambridge area represented “a major financial vote of confidence in the UK” that would put the country at the forefront of chip research and development.
The R&D facility would have focused on optoelectronics, which are used in fibre optic broadband cables and lasers. A planning application said the site would have also featured a facility for developing microchip wafers.
Huawei has been forced into retreat in western markets after the US raised security concerns about the company’s links with the Chinese government, then hit it with a slew of sanctions.
A review by the UK’s National Security Council subsequently concluded that the crackdown meant the safety of Huawei’s technology could no longer be guaranteed.
As a result, ministers branded the company’s kit “high risk” and ordered telecoms providers to strip it out of Britain’s 5G networks by 2027.
Sales at Huawei’s British division plunged from £1.3bn to £481m between 2019 and 2021, while the number of staff employed here has tumbled from 885 to 486, accounts show.
In accounts filed with Companies House, director Binbing Xiao said the business was now focusing on “the sale of products which are not restricted… Although the business scale is expected to decline as a result of the external environment”. Telegraph
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