William Xu, Huawei: Industry-Academia Collaboration for Innovation and Talent Cultivation

William Xu (Pic), Huawei’s Director of the Board and Chair of the Scientist Advisory Committee, was invited to deliver an online speech entitled “Industry-Academia Collaboration for Joint Innovation and Talent Cultivation” at Times Higher Education’s Asia Universities Summit. In this speech, he shared the approaches and practices adopted by Huawei during its collaboration with universities on innovation, joint research, talent cultivation, and tech competitions.

“Huawei works with universities to build open and innovative platforms for joint research and talent cultivation. Through the dual drivers of vision and application research, the industry and academia work together to define ‘top challenges’ and conduct innovation. These efforts are aimed at resolving the problems facing the industry and making groundbreaking achievements,” said William Xu. He added that Huawei invested US$400 million into university collaboration in 2021, and intends to invest more for deeper collaboration in the future.

Mr. Xu outlined Huawei’s approach to collaborating with universities. He explained that the first step was to build an open and innovative platform for joint research and talent cultivation. Universities are lighthouses for the industry, and they should devote themselves to basic research and address long-term challenges through inventions from 0 to 1. Meanwhile, the industry should use its advantages in engineering to overcome both engineering and industrialization challenges that arise across various scenarios. In addition, universities, research institutes, and businesses should align their definitions of “top challenges”. This will help them reach a consensus on industry vision and challenges and explore next-generation technologies. The dual drivers of vision and application research will lead the industry and academia to conduct research into basic theories and advanced technologies, as well as across domains. Working side by side, we can ensure that our research and talent keep up with the latest developments. Huawei works with over 300 universities and 900 research institutes worldwide. In 

2021, it invested US$400 million in university collaboration. The industry can work with universities on course and program design, joint talent training, and tech competitions, to identify and cultivate talent at numerous levels. From the industry’s perspective, Mr. Xu proposes five actions for industry-academia collaboration:

(1) Continue supporting breakthroughs in basic research and technology, and continuous industry innovation;

(2) Work together to set and solve problems, and make breakthroughs to overcome key industry challenges;

(3) Work together to optimize the design of programs and courses, and drive industry-academia alignment to cultivate urgently-needed talent;

(4) Work together to encourage innovation by building platforms like joint labs, tech competitions, Chaspark, Seeds for the Future, and post-doctoral research programs, in order to identify and cultivate talent;

(5) Strengthen talent exchanges between universities and the industry to promote transitions from theory to practice.

Huawei identifies and cultivates top talent by supporting international tech competitions, expanding the horizons of students who participate in such competitions, and proposing top challenges. In addition, Huawei works closely with China’s Ministry of Education on course and program design, high-level talent training, outstanding engineer training, reconstruction of key national labs, the release of industry challenges, and the creation of a collaborative, intelligent industry-university base for talent cultivation.

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