HP and Huawei could be about to give their backing to a new technology university on the Isle of Man, Techworld can reveal.
The International Centre for Technology, due to be opened in 2016 by the Manx Educational Foundation (MEF), is in line to named as one of HP’s 10 UK academies, while Huawei is considering using it as a testbed for new telecoms equipment.
“HP would provide us with technology, people, 30 percent of course content and access to development labs in the US and the UK,” said MEF chairman Kurt Roosen, before giving Techworld a tour of the site.
“We’ve also got Huawei with the same sort of plan. Except they’re slightly different in that they’d be looking to put alpha and beta equipment into the facility.”
The MEF wants to open the ICT University in a £5 million property that is owned by the Isle of Man government and situated on the outskirts of the island's capital, Douglas.
The government has agreed to sell the property (formerly used as a nunnery, a private residence and a business school) to the MEF, providing the charity can demonstrate suitable plans to turn it into a technology university. The MEF must also show that it will invest a further £15 million into the site.
Roosen said he has raised the £15 million with the help of high net worth investors based on the Isle of Man and private investors in China. He said he is now "waiting to hear on news of the acquisition of the property."
He added: “MEF’s major project is to try and build a niche ICT University on the Isle of Man. We’d like to grow our own entrepreneurs and our own high-level technical people.”
The university would initially offer one course for 150 students in Applied Information Technology. However, more courses will be added over the years and overall student numbers will eventually reach around 650.
According to Roosen, engineers at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, SE China, will teach students on the Isle of Man about the company’s next generation telecoms products, before going on to recruit many of them when they graduate.
Huawei pledged to invest £1.3 billion in the UK over a five year period, starting at the end of 2012. It recently opened a new UK headquarters in Reading and has revealed plans to open a new R&D facility in Bristol.
The island’s demographics and topography also make it a good place to trial the mobile networks Huawei delivers, according to Roosen.
“The Isle of Man was certainly a good testing ground for O2 when they were testing 3G,” he said. “This was the second place in the world to have 3G - two weeks behind Japan. It was a bit of a race going on.”
Huawei's 4G telecoms equipment has already been rolled out across the Isle of Man by Manx Telecom and Sure Mobile but Roosen believes the company could one day use the off-shore jurisdiction to trial 5G.
“A license for spectrum here costs £50, whereas a license for spectrum in the UK costs many, many millions. When you go to Huawei and say you can have a single cell testbed in the Isle of Man and all you have to do is fill in a form and pay £50, they go: ‘No, that can’t be right’. But we say: ‘Actually it is, we’ve done it before.’”
Former Isle of Man Minister for Economic Development John Shimmin said the university could bring significant economic benefits to the island.
"This has the potential to be a very exciting and important development for the Isle of Man,” he said. "[The] Government’s Vision 2020 initiative, which is the most significant project for many years to look at the future of the Island’s economy, has identified huge growth potential in the e-Business sector and ICT more widely.”
HP and Huawei were unable to confirm their involvement in the project at this stage.
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