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Why International Collaboration in Research is Essential for Europe

Huawei's Abraham Liu analyzes why research shouldn't be isolated by geographical borders.

By Abraham Liu, the Huawei chief representative to the EU institutions.
Aug 2020

Researchers and scientists from all over the world are working together to find a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, with companies from Europe, China, USA, Australia, and Canada at the forefront of seeking medical solutions to tackle COVID-19. But there is one common denominator in the work of all these specific research programs: they bring scientists together from different parts on the world to work on this incredibly important field of health research.

Transforming enterprise private lines

The pursuit of scientific excellence doesn’t stop at a defined geographical border. If governments or companies want to deliver the most innovative products and solutions to the marketplace, they should pursue a policy of international collaboration and engagement.

In other words: ensuring that the best scientists in the world are working together in the pursuit of a common purpose. For example, this can relate to collaborative research activities in combating chronic health disorders, tackling climate change, and building the greenest and most energy-efficient cities of the future.

Advances in ICT underpin the innovative development of all vertical industries. The energy, transport, health, industrial, financial, and agriculture sectors are being modernized and transformed via the process of digital ingenuity. For example:

  • 5G now means that medical operations can be carried out remotely.
  • Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help identify COVID-19 via cloud applications.
  • Innovations in IoT ensure the more efficient water systems by automatically identifying faults and leaks.
  • Today, 25 percent of all traffic congestion in cities is caused by people looking for parking spaces. This can be dramatically reduced by properly using data centers and integrating the use of video, voice, and data services for traffic-light and parking systems.
  • 5G will enable autonomous vehicles because the latency response times for carrying out instructions are now much lower than was the case for 4G. Car companies are now using server computers to test new vehicle models as opposed to deploying physical cars.
  • 85 percent of all traditional banking services are now carried out online. Advances in AI are also leading the fight in combating credit card fraud.
  • Using sensors to identify the blood pressure and heartbeat levels in cattle can increase milk production can increase by 20 percent.

At the core of all these advances is a very strong commitment by both the public and private sectors to invest in basic research. This includes areas such as mathematical algorithms, environmental sciences, and energy efficiency. But, international collaboration and engagement is the key component in delivering the digital transformation that we’re witnessing today.

If a company wants to deliver the most innovative ICT products into the marketplace then one should co-operate with the best scientific talent in the world to develop them. That is the central work philosophy of Huawei: we don’t want to see national boundaries when it comes to science; we want to see an open approach to science.    

How we’re supporting ICT research in Europe

Europe is home to many of the best researchers and scientists in the world. One-third of all scientific publications that are subject to global peer review emanate from Europe. Twenty percent of all global R&D takes place in Europe. The ICT sector now underpins research across a range of vertical sectors including in energy, transport, industry, financial services, environmental, agriculture, and smart city sectors.    

Huawei is committed to continuing its policy of international engagement in delivering new innovative ICT products and solutions into the marketplace. Huawei employs over 2,400 researchers in Europe, 90 percent of whom are local recruits. Our company works with over 150 universities in Europe on a range of different research activities. We run 23 research centers in 12 countries in Europe, with our EU headquarters based in Munich, Germany. Huawei has signed more than 240 technology partnership agreements with research institutes in Europe.

Huawei is an active participant in EU research and science initiatives. Huawei has taken part in 19 projects under the 7th EU research and technological framework programme (FP7) 2007-2013. We have engaged in a further 25 different research collaborations under the Horizon 2020 research, innovation, and science initiative between 2014 and 2020. Together with leading research institutes from Europe, Huawei has developed a variety of expertise covering 5G, cloud, and device technologies. We have developed the ICT platforms that will build the smart cities of the future, deliver e-health opportunities, and quickly bring autonomous driving into mainstream society. Huawei isn’t a new player in Europe on the research front. We set up our first research center in Stockholm Sweden in the year 2000, so we’ve been embedded in Europe on the research side for 20 years now.    

Supporting future EU research activities

The objectives of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) will be successfully implemented through positive international collaboration. This research, innovation, and science program of the EU will help make Europe fit for the digital age, strengthen the industrial and competitive nature of the EU economy, build a green economy, tackle climate change, and implement the sustainable development goals of the UN. 

Huawei can and will help the EU fulfil these vitally important social and economic policy goals. The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU Council of Ministers will soon conclude the final parameters and scope of this Horizon Europe program. A budget of around €94 billion will be allocated to research activities under both Horizon Europe and the new EU recovery instrument over the next seven years. 

The priority areas that will receive substantial funding under Horizon Europe are as follows:

  • Digital and industry
  • Health
  • Inclusive and secure societies
  • Climate and the environment
  • Food and natural resources

So, let’s look at how Horizon Europe will be backing the European industrial sector via research engagement in the digital sphere. Support for manufacturing technologies, advanced materials, AI, robotics, high-performance computing, big data, and the next-generation Internet will move center stage in terms of how Horizon Europe will boost the competitiveness of the European economy.

Representatives from research, educational, public and private bodies from over 180 countries in the world have taken part in research projects under Horizon 2020 during from 2014 to 2020. Open collaboration and the pursuit of excellence within the research domain have been central elements of EU research programs in the past. This will continue to be the case in the broadest sense under Horizon Europe 2021-2027. 

The research sector is an economic instrument in itself

It’s now very clear that the EU is guiding the research and science sectors to implement broader EU strategies. In other words, the research and science sectors are economic instruments in themselves, no longer separated from mainstream economic activity. Countries that invest in R&D deliver higher economic returns. And this is particularly the case for countries that invest heavily in ICT research. We should recall that the digital economy is growing three times faster than the global economy. So countries that invest in ICT research will come out of the economic difficulties that we’re all facing today quicker than other countries.

The same principle applies to private sector companies. Enterprises that invest heavily in R&D can and will innovate more quickly and develop more environmentally friendly products.

That’s why Huawei welcomes the findings of the 2019 European Commission industrial scoreboard for research and development. This survey analyzed the levels of financial investment into research from 2,500 companies globally. Each company had to invest a minimum of €30 million into R&D per annum. According to this European Commission 2019 survey, R&D investment by Huawei was the fifth highest in the world. 

Over the past three years, Huawei has invested close to 15 percent per annum of its global revenues into research programs. This has helped to ensure that we’ve remained one of the most innovative companies in the world within the ICT ecosystem. And we will support the same or even higher levels of investment into our research activities over the coming years. The company will also increase its levels of research engagement and investment in Europe over the next five years too. 

The private, public, research, and educational communities from all parts of the world – by working together with a common sense of purpose – can and will tackle the serious global challenges facing us today. We believe that research activities in Europe can deliver EU economic and social policy goals. Where we are united we will succeed. Where we are divided we will fail.