Is Ireland about to land a major Huawei investment?

14 Oct 2016

Pictured from left: Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, with Madam Chen Lifang, senior vice president and director of the board of Huawei

Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Chinese mobile comms giant Huawei, was in Dublin in August to scout potential locations for a major software research centre.

China-headquartered Huawei is the world’s biggest mobile telecoms equipment company, and is emerging as a major competitor in the Android smartphone space against other Asian rivals like Samsung and Sony.

The company employs over 120 people in Dublin, Athlone and Cork, and last year announced over 50 new jobs at an R&D office at the IFSC in Dublin.

‘Where there is talented people, there is Huawei’

Huawei has been in Ireland since 2004 and last year alone invested €35m in R&D.

The Chinese telecoms giant employs over 170,000 people worldwide, including 6,000 in Europe, and reported revenues of $60.8bn last year.

Huawei founder in Dublin scouting investment

At a special autumn reception in Dublin this week, the director of the board of Huawei,Madam Chen Lifang, praised Ireland as a location for R&D talent: “Where there is talented people, there is Huawei.”

She said that the company works closely with Irish universities, particularly University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. Recently, 10 engineering students from Irish universities took part in the company’s Seeds for the Future programme in China.

‘Huawei has two R&D operations outside Dublin and hopefully there may be some more good news on the way’

Madam Lifang said that Huawei is a key enabler of broadband in Ireland, working closely with operators like Eir. “We are proud that through the hard work of our 170,000-strong workforce, we power 1,500 networks in 170 countries and over half of the world’s 4G networks.”

Lifang said that R&D is core to Huawei’s future. “We plan to invest more than $10bn in R&D each year and looking forward, we aim to build a better-connected world and make more contributions to Ireland.”

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, revealed that Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfai was in Ireland during the summer to scope a potential R&D investment.

“Huawei has two R&D operations outside Dublin and hopefully there may be some more good news on the way.

“I know that your founder was in Dublin in August exploring opportunities for a software development research centre. Your commitment to developing technology and investing hugely in R&D marks Huawei out as a pioneer and a huge force to be reckoned with in a fast-changing industry.”

The Minister added that in Budget 2017, she secured €25m in capital expenditure for IDA Ireland.

“I expect the agency to begin work on three advanced facilities in Galway, Limerick and in Dundalk in the coming year.

“I also anticipate that the agency [IDA Ireland] will break the 200,000 assisted jobs mark by the end of 2017.

“Ireland is keen to do business with China,” the Minister said pointedly to the delegation from Huawei.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years