Innovation for a more sustainable world depends to a substantial extent on fostering talents. During my academic work in China as a visiting professor in September 2023, I had the opportunity to visit the Research and Development Center of the tech giant Huawei in Beijing and to learn about their Talent Fostering programme. How to be best in Tech – and in Integrity?
“Teamwork is not only the basis for winning contests, but also the basis for survival. More importantly, teamwork is necessary to drive greater prosperity for humanity”, said Ren Zhengfei, Founder of the tech Giant Huawei. Ren Zhengfei expressed it during a meeting of the ICPC Foundation’s Challenge Championship in 2023. The full memo has been published by the National University of Singapore. He added: “We will continue to support all kinds of contests for university students in subjects like math, physics, biology and neuroscience”. This year, the Championship involved 58 contestants hailing from 25 countries, all contestants had participated in Huawei’s previous Challenges and won top prizes.
The Shenzhen-based global company is among the largest and top global players in Telecom infrastructure, ICT, AI and technological innovation in a large range of sectors from smart cities to e-cars, from smart university campus to e-health, and, of course, from mobile phones to smart grid and the cloud. Huawei has business in 170 countries with 207,000 employees. 55 percent of all employees (thus over 100,000) work in R&D (Research and Development). The sanctions against Huawei by US and some other countries since 2018 led to a boom in R&D from 14 percent of the overall turnover in 2018 to 25 percent in 2022! Sanctions disrupted some business of Huawei and its partners substantially. However, at the same time, Huawei was forced and took it as an opportunity to speed up innovation and home-made solutions. When Huawei launched its new Huawei mobile phone Mate 60 Series by mid-September 2023, the world was surprised about innovation speed and capacity for new home-grown solutions.
Such efforts and successes need the best talents. The above mentioned “talent fostering” championship is launched not only to serve Huawei, but many companies and countries, as the Huawei founder clearly expressed: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is massive, and its scale is far beyond our imagination. Young people today will become the leaders of the era of massive computing power. … Huawei has always followed the principle of identifying and developing talent, but never seeking monopoly in this regard”.
Ren Zhengfei offers to support “contests in subjects like math, physics, chemistry, biology, and neural networks”. Such sciences are important for technological innovation. However, the fears - for example, surrounding Artificial Intelligence - which can be observed worldwide, show that technological innovation needs to be carefully embedded in societies with their traditions, poverty-wealth gaps, political power struggles and cultural-religious value-systems.
In other words: for a long-term, sustainable technological innovation, humanities add substantially for holistic research. Not only in terms of the marketing, language and cultural fashion of a product, but in terms of profound research on social, economic, political and cultural implications of such innovation. Imagine if, out of its 100,000 employees in R&D, Huawei hires just 2 percent with a background in humanities and social sciences, even including philosophy and religious studies; it would benefit from 2,000 specialists in cultural adaptation, ethical values and conflict resolution in very fast transformation societies.
Huawei, with its culture of curiosity for innovation, its openness for holistic approaches, its dedication for innovative Human Resource Management and its commitment for harmonious global cooperation, is best placed to integrate this even stronger than it already does. Huawei has proven its enormous innovative potential.
I therefore suggest adding to the JCPC championships in physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and neurosciences, championships for values-driven technologies through humanities such as anthropology, sociology, diversity of cultural values, conflict resolution, AI Ethics, sustainability, research integrity or innovative models of multilateral technological cooperation and standards. Innovation ethics serves technological innovation.
The Globethics Foundation, based in the midst of the UN agencies in Geneva, Switzerland and innovative companies, and acting worldwide on all continents, is a global network on Ethics, Integrity and Sustainability. Globethics - with over 200 partner universities, the largest free online library on ethics with almost 4 million documents, its publishing house with over 300 books with over 700 authors and its online Academy - offers tools for students, researchers and innovators. After 25 years of cooperation with partners in China, I know that Huawei is an innovation driver in almost all sectors of society. As Founder and President of Globethics, I offer to explore ways of cooperation for championships on holistic technologies for harmonious societies.
Christoph StückelbergerGlobethics Founder and President
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