Huawei has quietly opened a new research lab in central London and it has 60 computer-vision engineers. The company opened the research lab right next to new Facebook and Google offices.
Google’s new massive London headquarters is still under construction. Meanwhile, its AI-research arm, DeepMind, remains housed in a separate building on St. Pancras Square while the headquarters is being built. Facebook is likewise planning a massive new UK headquarters in Kings Cross.
Although Huawei is yet to formally announce the new lab, it is up and running. The company also invited VIPs to tour the new facilities next month. A source relayed this news to popular website Business Insider.
This research lab opening comes at a delicate time for Huawei. The Chinese company is currently fighting accusations by the US government that it steals technology and spies for the Chinese government. The US government subsequently banned Huawei from doing business with US firms with special license. The FBI also indicted the company in January on charges of trade-secret theft and bank fraud.
Huawei denied the claim. However, the US trade blacklisting made it unable to launch its latest Android smartphone, the Mate 30, with Google’s apps and services.
Its position in the UK is also precarious.
The British government will decide in the autumn whether Huawei’s telecommunications equipment should be completely excluded from the UK’s next-generation 5G mobile networks.
The US is pressuring its allies to lock Huawei out of their 5G networks completely. Although, in the UK, all the major mobile operators are already rolling out their new networks with Huawei gear.
UK security services also warned in February that Huawei’s mobile-network equipment had major flaws and “significant technical issues.” Huawei said it took those concerns seriously.
The new office currently houses about 60 engineers focused on artificial intelligence. However, the company intends to hire a total of 200 engineers at the location. They will place a particular emphasis on computer vision, a field of AI that lets computers “recognise” objects or people.
According to a second source, the lab focuses on technology for self-driving cars, as well as wider applications for artificial intelligence.
The existence of the lab highlights the importance of the UK to global companies as a hub for artificial-intelligence talent. It is also evidence that Huawei is still pushing to expand even as it faces mounting scrutiny from Western governments over spying allegations.
The new facility is part of Huawei’s OpenLab network of research and collaboration hubs around the world. A Huawei spokesman confirmed the lab’s existence but gave no further details.