Huawei’s £1 billion campus in Cambridge gets planning permission

Huawei’s £1 billion campus in Cambridge gets planning permission

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

Huawei acquired 500 acres of land in Sawston near Cambridge in 2018 as we reported (see Huawei plans to build chip R&D facility in Cambridge). The plans for the site can now be seen to be major, but are also part of a context in which Huawei is trying to win friends and influence countries not to heed US calls for a boycott of the company.

Huawei states the facility will focus on R&D and manufacturing optoelectronic devices and modules. The plan is for the campus to become the centre of Huawei’s international headquarters of Huawei’s optoelectronics business.

The plan calls for the construction of 50,000 square meters of facilities across nine acres of land and will directly create around 400 local jobs. The site is located at the former Spicers paper mill and production facility located to the west of Sawston and includes over 50 acres of brownfield land.

Next: Pawn in the game

“The UK is home to a vibrant and open market, as well as some of the best talent the world has to offer,” said Victor Zhang, vice president of Huawei, in a statement. “It’s the perfect location for this integrated innovation campus. Through close collaboration with research institutes, universities, and local industry, we want to advance optical communications technology for the industry as a whole, while doing our part to support the UK’s broader industrial strategy. Ultimately, we want to help enshrine the UK’s leading position in optoelectronics and promote UK tech on a global scale.”

However, Huawei’s plan is contentious because of the trade war between the US and China. The US has called for allies, including the UK, to boycott Huawei’s products, particularly in 5G deployment. The UK has tried to draw a compromise by letting Huawei bid for some peripheral network contracts around antennas while excluding them from the core of the network.

Relations between with China nosedived when the UK objected to China imposing a national security law on the former British colony. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered to allow nearly 3 million people from Hong Kong to come to live in the UK if the law is enacted. At present the UK is reviewing whether Huawei remains a credible supplier and is contemplating whether to mandate a switch to others such as Ericsson and Nokia (see UK prepares to kick Huawei out of 5G by 2023).

The billion-pound Sawston campus could be pawn in the game whether its development proceeds quickly or slows to a crawl may depend on many factors.

Huawei employs 1,600 people in the UK has operated in the UK for 20 years.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Huawei plans to build chip R&D facility in Cambridge

UK prepares to kick Huawei out of 5G by 2023

ST deal won’t shield Huawei, but could help

US tightens restrictions on Huawei’s chip supply

Opinion: ARM’s trouble in China was waiting to happen

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