Huawei, China’s largest technology company, is still in the eye of a storm of friction between china and the United States, with founder Ren Zhengfei rarely appearing in public this year. However, during the three-day period from July 29 to 31 this year, Mr Ren made a rare trip to Shanghai and Nanjing, visiting four famous Chinese universities – Shanghai Jiaotong University, Fudan University, Southeast University and Nanjing University – accompanied by two Huawei executives: Xu Wenwei, president of Huawei’s Institute of Strategic Studies, and He Tingbo, president of the 2012 Laboratory.
This was not a surprise visit. The four universities are the leaders in basic scientific research in the field of information technology in China, while Xu Wenwei and He Tingbo are the leaders of the two major technological innovation organizations of China’s basic research.
Since last year, Ren Zhengfei himself has repeatedly stressed the importance of basic education on many occasions, and has increasingly enhanced the strategic strength of basic scientific research. Xu Wenwei later told the media that the choice of the four universities has no special meaning in itself, but on behalf of Huawei attaches importance to Chinese universities.
At Fudan University, Ren Zhengfei said happily, “It’s nice to see people who are willing to sit on the cold bench.”
Seven days later, At the 2020 Summit of the China Information 100 People’s Congress, Xu Wenwei shared a rare experience of the trip. He says a large number of young scientists have grown up. In the next five to ten years, China’s basic research and cutting-edge research is still promising.
This is not really a new judgment. A few years ago, Huawei began to strengthen its cooperation with global universities in basic technology research, Xu said, and Huawei’s cooperation with universities is spending more than $400 million a year. This amount will not decrease, and will even increase further this year, the increase dissothing focus will be in China. According to Caijing’s comprehensive estimate, Huawei’s research funding to universities is actually on the rise, with the figure about $300 million in 2018.
“Huawei has always advocated open innovation, not doing research behind closed doors.” Xu Wenwei said that this is a co-creation mechanism. In many cases, Huawei’s basic research and co-creation mechanism is hidden behind Huawei’s powerful self-research innovation capabilities. Combined with the story that Huawei is going through at this time, the strategic value of combining all the forces worth joining together to do deep and strong basic technology is beginning to become more and more prominent.
Another focus of the summit is eco-creation. Bai Heen, executive director of the China Information 100 People’s Association and dean of Tsinghua University’s School of Management, has studied the current environment in detail: this era is full of multi-factor and multi-variables. Economic and social to digital, intelligent rapid changes, the next generation of information technology evolution cycle is under way, information technology applications and other subversive innovation is taking place, economic development appears in the international and domestic double-cycle pattern. These factors and variables have created unprecedented challenges for China’s digital transformation and development, and will affect the overall situation of China’s digital, networked and intelligent development.
He said that standing at this important point of historical development, how can Chinese enterprises advance technological innovation, make technological breakthroughs, join hands to create a good industrial ecology and digital ecology, share the dividend sized in industrial ecological development, and win-win progress in ecological cooperation is an issue that has been put before us.
A similar view was put forward by Yu Hexuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He said that the Sino-US game, THE IT field bear the brunt, in China to build a strong all-industry ecological chain, there used to be some talk, but today seems imminent.
This is an important issue facing China’s technology industry, and it is particularly necessary for Huawei.
First card: take the initiative to go one step further, layout basic scientific research.
Until 2019, Huawei’s research and development innovation level is more engineering innovation. The meaning of engineering innovation can be understood as product and solution innovation, and within Huawei, it is understood as innovation from 1 to N. It’s an innovation in the 1.0 era.
At the heart of engineering innovation is helping customers and partners become more competitive, helping them increase revenue or reduce costs, and help customers achieve business success. In the past, Huawei has had a lot of engineering and technological innovations in wireless, optical networks and smartphones.
Referring to Huawei’s strategic changes in technology research and development innovation, we should recall a change in responsibilities of Xu Wenwei, a member of Huawei’s board of directors, last year. In April of that year, Huawei established the Strategic Research Institute, with Xu Wenwei as president.
At the time, Xu Wenwei suggested that Huawei’s innovation swayed into the 2.0 era. The core of Innovation 2.0 is to go one step further on the basis of engineering innovation and solve the problem from 0-1 through the breakthrough of basic theory and the invention of basic technology. That’s the mission of Huawei’s Strategic Research Institute.
However, Huawei does not do its own basic innovation. Huawei’s decision-making level believes that university research institutions are better at breakthroughs in basic theory and inventions of basic technologies than Huawei. Huawei can join forces with universities and research institutions, academia and industry to do this.
The search for breakthroughs in basic theory and basic invention technology is not unfounded. What kind of basic theory and basic technology is worth supporting and excavating? ‘This needs to be pushed back from the vision, ‘ Mr. Xu said.
Starting from the vision assumption, study how people will live, work, play, health care, etc. in the future, ask questions, find technology with questions, capture the future technology direction and business opportunities with questions, and study the intelligent world of the future. Around the whole process of information, research and explore the future of technology, from the generation, storage, calculation, transmission, presentation, to information consumption.
Looking back on this vision, we look for theoretical breakthroughs and the invention of basic technologies, and one of the sources of theoretical breakthroughs and basic technology inventions is academia, where challenges and investments in research to universities are boosters. The uncertainty of theoretical breakthroughs and technological inventions is very high, and the nature of this uncertainty determines that innovation cannot be closed, and the ability to share results and share together is needed.
In concrete form, it takes a variety of ways, such as “supporting university research, self-building laboratories, multi-path technology investment”, which integrates the problems of industry, the ideas of academia and the belief in venture capital.
For example, in the field of basic scientific research, Huawei can set up a special fund to support basic scientific research and personnel training in universities, and promote the breakthrough of basic theory;
For example, in the field of basic technology research, Huawei has a wealth of industry application scenarios, can play with universities to play their respective advantages, promote breakthroughs in basic technology, and accelerate the university research results across the innovation “Death Valley.”
Under the combination of many parties, eliminate technical bottlenecks, integrate industry debris, and build a new digital ecology together, across the industrial rift valley. That is, “co-creation”.
The establishment of Huawei’s Strategic Research Institute has expanded Huawei’s technology pre-research cycle to 5-10 years. The seemingly raw technologies of light computing, DNA storage and atomic manufacturing are all within the scope that Huawei’s Strategic Research Institute hopes to break through.
The 2012 laboratory, which was established in 2011 and was previously considered Huawei’s technology muscle, pre-developed the technology in three to five years.
The main research directions of the 2012 laboratory are health care-related technologies, next-generation communications, cloud computing, audio and video analysis, data mining, machine learning, and so on.
Further down, Huawei’s product line research and development department, they develop technology, mainly in 1-3 years can achieve mature commercial technology, is based on customer needs under the premise of product and solution innovation. Solving problems from 10-N is also the main reason for Huawei’s product leadership in one phase.
And the university scientific research institutions to create the practical significance of technological innovation, Xu Wenwei’s interpretation is that this is a win-win model.
Take the example of “co-creation” in basic technology research. In general, regardless of the technology, the transformation of scientific research results to commercial applications usually takes four stages: concept research stage, technology development stage, engineering development stage, production deployment stage. If we ignore the status quo of technological development, leapfrog development, not only will cause project failure, economic losses, may also eventually delay the maturity of technology.
NASA (NASA) introduced the TRLs concept in 1989, the product technology at this stage of the grade is divided into 9 levels, when a technology assessed to meet the required level of technical maturity, can not be transferred to the next stage of research, otherwise labor and people hurt money, the most important thing is the project difficult to produce, affecting the subsequent progress.
However, the basic technology in the process of scientific research achievements, the role of researchers from strong to weak, and the role of enterprises from weak to strong. There is a weak zone in the middle (the TRLs model’s 4-7 level), known as the “Death Valley”.
At the heart of the existence of “Death Valley” lies in a fault line between researchers and the transfer of power between businesses. University science and technology personnel are good at the front-end work of the results industrialization process (1-3 levels), but to a certain stage, product development and industrialization production follow-up heavy work they are often incompetent, the other end of the enterprise, naturally have the pursuit of profit maximization instinct, unwilling to bear many risks of the application of scientific and technological achievements, often in the relatively mature stage of technology will intervene (8-9 levels). The existence of “Death Valley” has left many basic technologies without a future for commercial applications. Years of hard work may be a waste of time for developers;
The emergence of Huawei’s Strategic Research Institute means that Huawei, as a corporate player, has taken the initiative on the road of technological innovation, sacrificing some of its profits, taking more risks and filling the valley of death.
During a four-university visit, Mr. Ren said honestly: “You (universities) are doing a lot of things, and we (Huawei) have very low applications.” We hope that industrialization can be combined with your results. “
However, compared with technology that can be commercialized in 1-3 years, the layout cycle of up to 5 years to 10 years of technology, flat and not easy, very difficult period, the determination is particularly important.
“In the face of a situation that is not good for you, it’s a good fit for Huawei to overcome your inner anxiety, hesitation, and timidity.” Xu Yu, former director of the Information Development Bureau of the Central Network Office of Information Technology, said.
At a time when Technology is decoupling between China and the United States, this approach has been given more practical significance. At the 2020 Summit of the Information 100 People’s Congress on August 7th, Xu Yu believed that the new “double cycle” proposed by the Politburo has its unique historical mission in emerging technology. To achieve the digital economy industry “domestic cycle” of the smooth flow, the task is to try to connect the chain, do strong and weak chain, plus the length chain. In this context, universities and enterprises closer and more in-depth technical ecological cooperation, more prominent practical significance.
“The U.S. is forcing Chinese companies to have their own ecology, their own platforms and their own systems.” Xu Wenwei said.
Incomplete statistics show that Huawei has established partnerships with 300 universities around the world, and some of them have established joint laboratories.
Second card: ecological openness, both sharing, but also win-win situation.
The external environment is becoming more and more complex, and Mr. Yu’s judgment is that the anti-globalization trend in the United States is becoming more and more serious, and its manifestations have begun to diversify. Such as cut off supply, disable, block, close the door, forced, cut off, intercept. The worst, he argues, is not yet there, and don’t fantasize about when America will change, or imagine that the election results will change America. China’s industry should do its own thing.
But if you return to Huawei’s communications and digital industries, the industry faces a new iteration. The more complex the external environment, the better Huawei has to do with the things it has set.
As of July, the number of global 5G users has exceeded 90 million, Xu Wenwei judged that the first phase of global 5G construction has come to an end. The focus of the next phase of 5G is to develop industry applications and release the dividends of 5G networks.
In other words, the digital economy industry, driven by digital technology, is one of Huawei’s main battlegrounds in China this year, and it is to do a good job in the ecological. How to do a good job of ecology? How to attract more powerful ecological partners? Xu Wenwei’s answer is sharing and win-win.
Xu Wenwei said that Huawei and partners work together to deepen the business scenario, create a new digital ecosystem of peer-to-peer collaboration and sharing among the main parties, support product innovation and upgrading of products, production capacity and business capabilities of industry customers, and enhance industry productivity, which is shared.
Huawei adheres to the business strategy, the boundaries are clear, something has been done, through hardware development, software open source, so that partners to promote the development of the industry, open source operating system, open source database, open source AI computing framework, for developers to provide end, edge, cloud full-scenario development framework, which is a win-win situation.
This is very important to Huawei. In fact, China’s digital economy has entered a fast track, enough technology accumulation, big enough and urgent enough market demand, more urgent job-building pressure, these factors in a very short time node, Huawei can seize this window period, may be related to the future fate.
Huawei also needs to stock up on a sustainable, competitive ecosystem. Within Huawei, the “platform-ecological” model is crucial, with an eco-based platform and a platform that gathers ecology. Companies with unique capabilities that have been precipitated in some industries for a long time are Huawei’s current preferred eco-partner.
In other words, it’s hard to have a company that fully meets the full needs of its industry customers and builds a community of the fate of digital transformation. This community of destiny is not a loose buying and selling relationship, it is strong enough, each has a division of labor, mutual coordination, different abilities, ring-linked.
According to data released by Xu Wenwei, the number of Huawei cooperative ISVs (independent software developers) has exceeded 3,500, with an annual output value of more than 100 million top ISV partners of more than 500, including Kingdee, Youyou, Shenzhou Information, Taiji, Beiming software and so on. Huawei’s cloud market has brought nearly RMB 1 billion in transactions to ISV partners. The number of global eco-innovation centers for cloud and computing has reached 37.
But beyond the ecology, Huawei needs to store more capacity. For example, industry capabilities, technical capabilities.
Since the beginning of this year, Huawei’s government and enterprises and cloud BU have significantly accelerated the pace of ecological co-construction. A source close to Huawei told Caijing that this year’s digital market will be crucial for Huawei.
Yang Wenchi, vice president of political and corporate affairs in Huawei China, previously mentioned in an interview with Caijing that at least three years ago, Huawei realized that the need to understand the industry, the direct approach is to add a large number of industry-savvy experts and account managers, these experts and account managers are not tasked with playing single-item projects, their task is to go into the customer, deep understanding of the needs, and then Huawei reverse integration of counterparts solution.
In order to continue to accumulate and ferment this capability, Huawei has developed a relatively “tough” rule within it that, in principle, these experts and account managers are not allowed to move positions across industry lines.
Huawei also needs to stock up on its technological capabilities and constantly introduce technologies that change according to new demand, which will ensure the speed of Huawei’s market. The ideal rhythm is the evolutionary path in which demands and technology bite together and are tightly linked.
“Know the industry, have technology, have ecology, and we need to continue to work in these three directions.” Yang Wenchi said that doing a good job of these three points is a closed-loop, sustainable operation, sustainable optimization of the digital transformation process. Huawei will be able to seize this precious window period.
Xu also revealed Harmony’s latest development ideas at the summit. In the operating system, he said, Huawei believes that the future model should lead by using open confrontation against closure, with synergy against fragmentation, Harmony will take the road of building an autonomous OS ecosystem, and support distributed full-scene terminals.
Text . . . Caijing reporter Xie Lirong.