The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is terminating all research and funding links with Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE in light of recent U.S. federal probes, according to a letter from university officials.
MIT is one of several prestigious academic institutions in the U.S. to announce an end to ties with Huawei. Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Minnesota have cut all future research collaborations with the Chinese telecom company as well, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
“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 Vice President for ResearchMaria Zuber wrote in a letter to the faculty on Wednesday.
In a 2017 presentation by Huawei, MIT was cited as a collaborator in the Huawei Innovation Research Program. The program is a global initiative “to identify and support world-class, full-time faculty members pursuing innovation of mutual interest,” the SCMP reported the tech giant as saying.
The halt in funding to Huawei and ZTE comes at a time of heightening tensions between the U.S. and China.
U.S. lawmakers have said ZTE and Huawei equipment may represent national security risks, alleging that the companies’ products could support Chinese espionage. Both companies have denied the claims.
In January, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Huawei with allegedly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and stealing trade secrets from U.S. telecom T-Mobile.
Huawei and ZTE, however, may not be the only international entities affected by a halt in partnerships with the university.
MIT’s plans to cut ties with Huawei and ZTE is part of a bigger plan to ramp up its internal evaluation 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.
MIT’s “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 said.
Huawei and ZTE did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment about MIT’s decision.