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MIT terminates funding and research links with China’s Huawei and ZTE

By David Schwartz
Published: April 9th, 2019

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is terminating all research and funding ties with Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE in response to U.S. federal probes into sanction violations and espionage, according to a letter from university officials.

MIT is just the latest in a growing list of U.S. universities to announce an end to research and funding relationships with Huawei. “MIT is not accepting new engagements or renewing existing ones with Huawei and ZTE or their respective subsidiaries due to federal investigations regarding violations of sanction restrictions,” MIT associate provost Richard Lester and VPR Maria Zuber wrote in a letter to the faculty on Wednesday.

The announcement is part of a bigger plan to intensify internal evaluations of international partners, the letter to faculty said. “Engagements with certain countries — currently China, Russia and Saudi Arabia — merit additional faculty and administrative review beyond the usual evaluations that all international projects receive,” the MIT officials wrote. The planned

“elevated-risk” review process will pay special attention to “intellectual property, export controls, data security and access, economic competitiveness, national security, and political, civil and human rights,” the letter explained.

MIT’s decision follows criticism of its partnerships with Saudi Arabia. Though university president L. Rafael Reif condemned the kingdom’s human rights abuses after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he declined at the time to cut ties with the kingdom – which funded more than $7 million in research at MIT last fiscal year.

Under its new policy, MIT will give these projects a level of review that goes beyond what research partnerships currently receive. It “is designed to enable MIT to engage with the world effectively, with responsible management of risks and in keeping with the values of our community,” the letter to faculty states.

Three types of projects will be subject to the elevated-risk review: those involving funding from China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia; those involving MIT faculty, staff, or students doing work in those countries; and collaborations with people or entities from those countries.

After review, if “significant risk” is determined, a group of top administrators and the university’s general counsel will evaluate the project and either develop a risk mitigation plan or “decide that the project cannot proceed,” the letter says.

Sources: CNBC and The Chronicle of Higher Education

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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