Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced that it was cutting collaborations with Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE amid federal investigations into the companies and potential security risks.
In a letter posted on the university's website, Maria Zuber, vice-president for research, said MIT would be tightening its screening process for research and projects with international partners.
"Most recently we have determined that 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."
Zuber added that based on the enhanced review process, "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."
The new process would take extra caution when considering international proposals that were deemed "elevated risk," particularly when they related to intellectual property, data and security access, national security, and human rights.
The letter did not specify the types of projects it shares with Huawei, though MIT is cited in a 2017 Huawei presentation as a collaborator in the Huawei Innovation Research Programme (HIRP), according to the South China Morning Post.
MIT joins a growing list of schools that have stopped collaboration with Huawei since the US government accused the company of intellectual property theft and breaking US sanctions on Iran earlier this year. Oxford, Stanford, and University of California at San Diego have also suspended research ties with the tech company.
The US has also banned its federal agencies or their contractors from using equipment or services from Huawei, and has long voiced concerns that Huawei technology — along with its fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE — could pose a security risk, fearing that the company's technology could act as a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy.
Several other countries have called the security of Huawei technology into question.
Australia banned Huawei and ZTE from supplying tech for the rollout of its next-generation 5G networks, citing major security risks, and last week a British spy agency published a scathing report detailing security concerns about Huawei as it plans its own 5G networks.
New Zealand has also turned down a proposal for one of its major telecom carriers to use Huawei equipment in its planned 5G mobile network, but the country has not ruled out using the tech giant in future internet network upgrades if security risks are addressed.