Open Innovation at Huawei
Huawei is rapidly emerging as a global technology leader in the telecommunications equipment marketplace. The company has grown rapidly, and its products have evolved from early copies of other technologies to world-leading breakthroughs that promise to lead the market in the coming years.
One part of the company’s success lies in the innovative processes that it has developed to create and develop these technologies. HIRP is built upon a careful understanding of open innovation, and the company has thoughtfully applied open innovation to its telecommunications context. We can say that HIRP demonstrates “open innovation with Chinese characteristics”.
The case study carefully documents the ways in which HIRP enlists the support and collaboration of numerous academic faculty, both in China and in many other universities in the West. HIRP examined the innovation policies of many other companies, both in telecom and in other industries such as pharmaceuticals, in developing its own process. They have decided to base their processes on the success of companies like Cisco, which extensively leveraged technology from places like Stanford University. In so doing, they decided not to follow the example of Bell Laboratories, which created wonderful scientific discoveries inside its own extensive laboratories but often struggled to provide timely technologies to its sister business units inside AT&T.
By leveraging HIRP, Huawei, like Cisco, engages extensively with excellent academic researchers. The case study explains the challenges that this approach entails. The best academic researchers have a pre-existing research agenda, and often have all the funding they require to carry out their agenda. Companies like Huawei must attract their interest in projects that Huawei can carry forward, and it is the potential to see one’s research implemented in the real world that serves to motivate strong academic talent to collaborate with Huawei. This is not like managing a vendor, it is much more like a research partnership. And the professors quoted in the case study are clearly impressed by their experience in working with Huawei.
The author of the study from HKUST clearly enjoyed extensive access to the company, and also took the time to interview a number of external professors in researching this case. The result is a study that will be of great value to all who seek to understand the changing processes of innovation, the rise of strong Chinese technology players, and the importance of accessing academic research, and then making it useful.
More information about the case can be found from our Case Collection.
An article summarizing the case study is available at the School's eNews.