UBC-Huawei partnership not yet 'directly impacted' after Canada bans company from 5G network

The Canadian government’s ban on Huawei from working on the country’s 5G telecommunication system could bring change to research and tech partnerships at post-secondary institutions, including UBC.

On May 19, the federal government banned Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from working on Canada’s 5G wireless networks.

In the past year, Huawei funded 24 UBC research projects. In a statement to The Ubyssey, managing director of UBC’s industry liaison office, J.P. Heale said, “the $6.3 million in sponsored research funding from Huawei this past year represents about 0.8 per cent of UBC’s total annual research funding, or about 3.8 per cent of annual sponsored research funding.”

Heale added that all UBC research is “ultimately public and available for a global audience,” and that the university “has the right to license IP invented during the course of Huawei sponsored research to other companies.”

UBC’s partnership with Huawei has not yet been directly impacted, according to Dr. Paul Evans, a professor in the school of public policy and global affairs and an expert in Canada-China relations.

“It was important that the statement from the government did not ban or restrict those research and development activities in Canada. At least not yet,” he said.

Evans said the federal government’s announcement has been long anticipated.

“The government is going to move in the direction of new kinds of restrictions and controls,” Evans added.

Evans said how the public responds to the ban will be critical.

He also said that professors at Canadian universities generally do risk assessments to see whether any foreign partnership or contact should be noted and observed. Despite that, some important and complicated questions remained unanswered, according to Evans.

“But the question then, becomes very complicated. What kinds of projects can be seen as risky? Or is in sensitive areas? What is the definition of a sensitive area? A second question is about who is seen as a responsible partner, if Huawei is not seen as such a good partner,” he said.