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Cambridge University sets up £25m network research group

Academic networking and communications research project will run for five years with financial support from BT and Huawei

The University of Cambridge, together with telecoms operator BT and networking technology supplier Huawei, is to set up a new academic research group that will explore multiple projects relating to photonics, digital and access networks, and media technologies.

The five-year project will be backed by £25m in funding and contributions, and will combine the resources of Cambridge academics, BT Labs and Huawei’s expanding UK R&D team to develop new networking technologies to unlock economic benefits for UK enterprises, such as reducing infrastructure costs and boosting performance.

The researchers will also explore how the rapidly developing communications sector will affect society at large, how networking and communications technology can be used to help reduce inequality for the digitally excluded, and how technology might be able to help communities weather the impact of climate change.

“The University of Cambridge is delighted to be, once again, demonstrating the importance of its research to business and industry,” said Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor at Cambridge University. “The world of telecommunications has advanced rapidly over the last two decades. However, there is still work to be done to improve the technologies we use on a daily basis and to ensure that they are long-lived.

“By working with BT and Huawei, we will be able to demonstrate that the insights delivered through our research have a broad impact.”

The project will formally kick off in the first half of 2018, and will be based at the university’s Maxwell Centre, a recently opened co-working and research unit that aims to foster links between Cambridge’s academic community, the extensive cluster of hi-tech businesses around the city, and the wider world of technology.

“Technology is changing the world faster than we have ever seen,” said Ken Hu, Huawei deputy chairman and rotating CEO. “It will bring many benefits to mankind, and affect nearly every aspect of our lives.

Read more about R&D

“No single organisation has all the answers. Partnership is the only way forward in a complex digital age. We look forward to working with BT and the University of Cambridge. Together, we will explore future technologies and help ensure a positive social impact.”

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson added: “BT’s fixed and mobile infrastructure is the engine of the UK economy, so it is essential that we continue to innovate in this space to enhance the UK’s competitiveness on the world stage towards and through Brexit.

“We believe the best way of ensuring this country remains at the forefront of innovation is by combining the expertise and commercial focus of industry with the fantastic intellectual capital found at our world-leading universities.”

Both BT and Huawei have worked with Cambridge on a number of research projects before. The university has worked extensively alongside BT’s Adastral Park lab in Ipswich, Suffolk, and its relationship with Huawei goes back to 2010.

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