Chinese technology giant Huawei announced this week it has helped set up 18 Joint Innovation Centres (JIC) in Europe since its first venture with Vodafone in 2006.
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In the same week the company announced the development of a £125m research and development centre in Bristol, which will employ up to 30 people to research the development of software and analog and ICT chips.
During the second Huawei Innovation Day in Milan this week, William Xu, chief strategy marketing officer at Huawei, described how the firm’s dedication to research and development in Europe will help to build a “silicon road” between China and Europe just as the ancient “Silk road” connected them in the past.
He said the firm injects a lot of wealth into local ecosystems, and employs more than 7,000 employees in Europe, with the hope of hiring thousands more in the future, with a huge focus on more research and development in various areas.
The broad range of research subjects focussed on the idea that if there is a lack of innovation in a particular area or industry, it does not just damage that sector, but the economy as a whole.
During the discussion, the idea of a “greater connected Europe” was explored, expanding Huawei’s focus further to encompass networking, consumer and enterprise devices and research and development globally, as well as preparing for the roll-out of 5G in 2020.
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Darrell West, vice-president and director of Governance Studies, Brookings Institution, who spoke at the conference, pointed out that researchers at Mobile World Congress last year claimed that by 2016, 80% of broadband subscriptions will be through mobile devices, and so a focus on social media, data analytics and mobile technology is essential to ensure that Europe, and the world, is better connected.
He said: “Right now in terms of the number of mobile subscribers we’re at about 3.5 billion. This is expected to grow to over 3.9 billion by 2017 and as William pointed out earlier if you count the number of devices as opposed to the number of subscribers, we already up to over 12 billion devices, so clearly this is a revolution that is already here, and it’s really starting to transform many different aspects of life.”
West believes that, although it would be ideal for Europe to have a connected digital economy, creating a single digital market is currently out of the question due to the variation of laws and standards between countries.
“A lot of the areas I see in innovation today are not due to technology. We have the technology in a lot of different areas, there are global companies that are doing a great job of producing innovative products.” He said.
“Most countries still have rules designed for an industrial era and not a digital era and every country is struggling to update its legal regulatory environment to invite the new economy that is starting to emerge.”