Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Optica Cuts Ties With Huawei After Secret Funding Exposed

(Bloomberg) — The Optica Foundation will no longer accept money from Huawei Technologies Co. for a competition to fund cutting edge-research at US universities, the group’s chief executive officer said, after Bloomberg News reported the Chinese company was secretly funding the program.

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Huawei’s funding “has diverted attention from the program’s mission to support early career professionals focused on our field of optics and photonics,” CEO Elizabeth Rogan wrote in the letter to the Optica Board of Directors. “Huawei will have no connection to the program moving forward.”

The Optica Foundation will also return all the money that Huawei donated for 2024 and the previous two years, Rogan wrote. She said the selection process is underway for this year’s challenge and winners will be announced later in the year.

Optica made the move more than a month after Bloomberg reported that Huawei was the sole funder of the research competition, which has awarded millions of dollars since its inception in 2022 and attracted hundreds of proposals from scientists around the world, including those at top US universities that have banned their researchers from working with Huawei.

The findings revealed one strategy that Shenzhen-based Huawei has used in its bid to stay ahead of cutting-edge reserach despite US restrictions imposed over the past several years in response to concerns that its technology could be used by Beijing as a spy tool.

Huawei Secretly Backs US Research, Awarding Millions in Prizes

Rogan had earlier said that some donors preferred to remain anonymous and there was nothing unusual about the practice. Even so, the partnership gained the attention from Congress, where two senior US lawmakers said the funding arrangement ran counter to efforts to keep foreign adversaries from compromising US research.

“By masking the source of the Optica Foundation Challenge funding, your organization has compromised the ability of US research institutions to comply with the law,” they wrote.

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