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East Anglia Future 50

Tech giant has 'no plans' to leave Ipswich - despite acquisition of Cambridgeshire site

PUBLISHED: 16:09 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 29 April 2019

Huawei says it plans to keep its presence in Ipswich  Picture: STEVE PARSONS/PA WIRE

Huawei says it plans to keep its presence in Ipswich Picture: STEVE PARSONS/PA WIRE

Chinese telecoms firm Huawei says it is set to retain its strong presence in Ipswich, despite plans to build a new research and development (R&D) centre in Cambridge.

Chinese tech giant Huawei has reportedly been given the go ahead  to help build Britains new 5G network  Pic: AP/KIN CHEUNGChinese tech giant Huawei has reportedly been given the go ahead to help build Britains new 5G network Pic: AP/KIN CHEUNG

The smartphone firm has two operations at communications giant BT's biggest single site, Adastral Park, which is based at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk, with no plans to move them.

One of the bases has 40 to 50 Huawei staff relating to its operations with BT, which owns EE, a mobile phone services arm, and a separate infrastructure operation, Openreach, and which is a major UK customer for the Chinese firm. That office deals with joint innovation developments and customer relations with BT.

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Huawei also employs around 80 staff at an R&D site at Adastral, having acquired the Centre for Integrated Photonics (CIP) in 2012, which at the time had around 60 staff. It has since expanded its clean room and invested in the facility, which is its main photonics – a fibreoptics technology – laboratory globally.

Huawei also has a large presence in Cambridge, employing around 130 to 140 people there, and it has secured a £37.5m site for research and development but this is currently brownfield, and it has yet to even submit an application.

A Huawei spokesman said there was “zero” chance of the firm leaving Adastral Park.

“We have acquired a new site, but we are not closing or moving from Martlesham,” he said. “There are no plans for Huawei to leave Adastral Park, full stop.”

The company has been working with BT since 2005 and has had a presence at Adastral Park for about 10 years.

Globally, it spends billions of pounds on R & D.

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“We are growing our investment in our R & D in the UK as we have been growing our investment in CIP since we acquired it. The point is, we are investing more in R & D.”

In January 2019, Huawei purchased a 511 acre site in Sawston, Cambridge, from US biotechnology firm Northwest Biotherapeutics (NWBio) for £37.5m, with a view to creating an R & D campus.

As part of the deal, NWBio leased back an 87,000sq ft manufacturing facility on a 20-year lease and retained ownership of 17 acres of land

Once built, the site would be Huawei's third facility in Cambridge.

Meanwhile, controversy has continued over whether the firm should be involved in building UK telecoms networks.

The United States has warned against western governments allowing Huawei to be involved in 5G networks.

Robert Strayer, the deputy assistant secretary for cyber at the US State Department, said any role for the firm in building a nation's 5G network posed an “unacceptable risk” to security.

His comments follow a report that UK prime minister Theresa May has given the green light for the firm to provide “non core” elements of the UK network, overriding concerns of a number of senior ministers.

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