4 — Is Huawei a design company?
One revealing example of this decentralized trend is Huawei’s R&D strategy. The tech giant has made the headlines for all kinds of geopolitical reasons recently but this should not overshadow the fact that this company is a one of the many incredible Chinese achievements in the field of innovative technologies. Over the past 15 years China has grown into a global technology leader in sectors such as social media and e-commerce.
According to Startup Genome, Beijing is now home to 1,070 AI companies. Beijing-based AI unicorn Bytedance is valued at $95 billion — the world’s largest privately backed startup. Zhongguancun, Beijing’s tech hub, is home to 10 AI labs and China is building a $2.1 billion AI technology park in Beijing’s suburban Mentougou district.
Beijing, which came in as the top city for startups in Asia, climbed from 17th to 6th globally while Shanghai jumped from 31st to 10th globally (source: StartupBlink report). China as a whole has climbed to the14th place in the global startup ecosystem from 27th last year.
The world’s most valuable startup, said to now be worth over USD 100 billion, is Beijing-based Bytedance which operates short video app TikTok, the first Chinese app to go viral outside China.
Huawei, founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei has over 194,000 employees and revenues north of $121 billion as of December 2019. Huawei’s new China campus is divided into 12 European-style towns connecting its 25,000 employees by a train. In order to stay competitive, it has a strategy of sourcing innovation from all over the world.
For instance it has named French designer Mathieu Lehanneur as the head of its new design research center in Paris. Lehanneur will lead Huawei’s recently unveiled Aesthetics Research Center, managing a team of around 20 designers who will work towards unifying the brand’s various product lines and store interiors. Lehanneur is ranked among the “100 World top designers and influencers” by Wallpaper and Surface magazines and is described as the “champion of intellectual agility in the field of contemporary design” by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design , at MoMA New York.
“Technology is no longer just between us. It is with us and on us. It simply needs to be shaped.”
Since 2015, Huawei has invested $600 million in France, starting with its “Aestethetics Research Center” (inaugurated on March 2015) and a partnership with Paris design school École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI).
“Paris is a global hub for fashion and arts, and now the city’s creative resources can be applied to Huawei products worldwide,” said Huawei CEO Ken Hu at the research centre’s opening ceremony. “That makes France a vital part of our global innovation.”
“We are experiencing a new turning point in our history,” said Lehanneur. “After the industrial and digital revolutions, we are now entering the era of the interpersonal revolution. Technology is no longer just between us. It is with us and on us. It simply needs to be shaped.”
Lehanneur has previously worked on projects from restaurant interiors to lighting installations but has recently completed a series of electronic products including a 20-sided speaker and a portable radio.
“The aim is for all Huawei products to have a unique and symbolic hallmark, on an international level,” said the press release.
It is amazing to witness how even a company born in such an economy-planned and government -centralized country as China has taken a design-centered approach to its product development.
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4 — Is Huawei a design company?
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