He turns his back on a $ 4 million research chair

A researcher at Montreal Polytechnic turns his back on a $ 4 million research chair partially funded by Huawei, amid a controversy over the Chinese giant.

Polytechnique and Huawei quietly completed the “Industrial Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence for Multimedia and Assistive Technologies” in April 2019, documents obtained Newspaper After accessing the information request. However, the cooperation agreement was signed a year ago.

“The researchers were uncomfortable with the background media noise surrounding Huawei,” said Annie Tochet, the university’s public relations officer. Accordingly, and at the request of the Principal Investigator, Polytechnic and Huawei decided by mutual agreement not to continue cooperation.

The principal investigator was Christopher Ball. In an interview with our Bureau of Investigation, the scientist clarified that he doubted his cooperation with Huawei in December 2018.

That month, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were imprisoned in China, shortly after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada.

Pal says the researcher is “not isolated from the rest of the world”. He has to watch what is going on. It is part of his responsibility. ”

What broke the camel’s back

For him, gout was too much Globe and Mail Who reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was asking universities to exercise caution in their partnerships with Huawei.

“When there are things like that, a warning, I listen.”

According to Christopher Pal, Polytechnic Montreal and Huawei were very understanding when they announced their withdrawal, even though it was until midnight.

The various partners were already seeking a date to announce the creation of the chair. The researcher stresses that leaving 4 million dollars on the table for ethical reasons was not difficult.

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“It was the right decision.”

However, he refuses to criticize other Quebec researchers who still collaborate with Huawei, believing that it is up to everyone to draw the line.

Christopher Ball also stresses that there is an opportunity to grow in an area where funding is abundant. Finding other partners has never been a problem.

Christopher Ball’s motives are not mentioned in the Chair’s termination document. It simply states that Huawei “voluntarily withdraws” from the project. For its part, Polytechnique Montreal stated that it remains “determined to work with Huawei Canada on future projects”.

Links always

Relations between the two organizations also continued to develop. Newspaper It was recently revealed that the University of Montreal, which Polytechnic is attending, received a $ 3.9 million donation from Huawei in 2019.

Huawei is also funding another research chair at Polytechnique, in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), an agency of the federal government.

Over the past 10 years, NSERC has paid Canadian universities $ 32 million for projects with Huawei, including $ 12 million in Quebec.

– With Philip Langlois

How is intellectual property shared?

  • Since 2018, Huawei and the universities share the intellectual property that arises from the research. Each partner is free to use it to create products without having to pay royalties to the other.
  • Before 2018, Huawei negotiated the intellectual property on a case-by-case basis with the universities.

Another researcher says no to Huawei

A Chinese-Canadian researcher has turned down a highly lucrative job offer from Huawei due to concerns that the company will ignore privacy. He encourages the audience to follow suit and watch out for the Chinese giant.

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The offer was introduced “a few years ago” by Huawei in China. The researcher who spoke to our FBI requested anonymity because he feared that his family in China would face reprisals from the government if his identity were to be revealed.

“It was a very interesting show, and not just financially,” he explains. Huawei in particular promised to provide him with “all the data” he wanted, which would have greatly speeded up his work.

Strange promise

But this promise alarmed the researcher, who used to sign “piles of legal documents” to ensure the protection of personal information.

“We were talking about massive amounts of data here, and they didn’t seem to care about privacy issues. It really scared me.”

Huawei Antennas, Notre Dame Street, near the Port of Montreal

Photograph by Martin Chevalier

Huawei Antennas, Notre Dame Street, near the Port of Montreal

The researcher rejected Huawei China’s offer, but is now concerned about the extent of the company’s presence in Canada.

“It is a big surprise to me to see the government telling the public that it is considering Huawei using 5G. [Si Huawei est autorisé en 5G], This would be a computer breach in Canada. “

no entry

“At Huawei, cybersecurity and the protection of personal data are our main priorities,” said Sabrina Chartrand, Quebec spokeswoman for Huawei Canada. It also states, “Huawei Canada has never had and never had access to data or information on Canadians.”

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