Huawei CEO hopes to woo foreign boffins to work on 6G in Shanghai campus that feels just like home

Staff also told to 'seize the patent position' on sixth-gen mobile networks


Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told an internal company meeting his mega-corp must focus early on 6G to avoid being restrained by patents – and it will seek international talent to achieve that.

“Our study of 6G is to take precautions and seize the patent position. We must not wait until 6G is really useful, as we are then constrained by a lack of patents,” said Ren, as translated from Chinese, at the Huawei Central Research Institute in August. Text of the largely Q&A session was released via Chinese news outlets today.

That's not too surprising a position given China's national intellectual property administration claimed a few months ago that the nation already leads the world in patents pertinent to sixth-generation mobile networks. And given that Finland, America, South Korea, Japan, and no doubt others are pursuing 6G, too, it's in Huawei's interest to stay ahead, if not get ahead of the pack.

We also note that a formal standard for 6G is not expected to emerge until late in the 2020s, and so the race is still on.

The Huawei boss peppered the conversation with metaphors: he used fluid mechanics concepts to compare R&D to nozzles; said some people climb mountains and most people grow the food for the climbers, as a way of saying that we all choose our own paths in science and engineering and long-term research; and likened specialists to MSG sprinkled on noodles.

Attracting these experts are an area of concern for Huawei.

“The company is in a critical period of strategic survival and development and must have talent to compete,” said Ren, who also said he plans to offer salaries and compensate at US levels to attract talent from the country that wrapped the tech giant up in profit-crushing sanctions.

Ren offered a new research campus in Qingpu, Shanghai, as a place "beautiful and suitable for foreigners," complete with cafes. “If there are 700 or 800 foreign scientists working here, they will not feel that they are in a foreign country,” said Ren, according to another, longer transcript of the meeting.

He does get quite enthusiastic about it. "There are very beautiful cafes on the roadside of the lake, suitable for modern youth and attracting all talents," Ren reiterated, referring to a nearby body of water that was likened to Lake Geneva.

One hopes these foreign boffins don't end up being detained and used as political leverage in China's confrontations with other nations.

The chief exec said Huawei needed more theoretical breakthroughs, especially in the fields of semiconductors and material science, an area the telecoms equipment giant has invested heavily in with declining success.

“Japan and the United States are basically leading the way,” said Ren, adding: “We must use the global platform to create our own success.”

Of those US sanctions giving Huawei so much trouble, Ren said they’ve cause product part quality to slip, but not to an unmanageable level.

“In the past two years, we have been sanctioned by the United States and no longer seek to use the best parts to make the best products. Under the scientific and reasonable method of system flow balance, we have also made high-quality products with reasonable parts,” said Ren.

Huawei reported an almost 30 percent year-on-year decline in Q2 2021 attributing the plunge to the impact of US sanctions on its smartphone business. ®

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