Belgian research powerhouse turns hawkish on China – POLITICO

The remarks, which confirmed POLITICO’s previous reporting, were a watershed moment for the company. In the past, Van den Hove had touted Imec as the “Switzerland of semiconductors”, a place where all the industry’s key players – including Chinese players like SMIC and Huawei’s HiSilicon – could come together.

KU Leuven has also increased its scrutiny of research collaborations, said its director Sels. There is now a “rigor that we didn’t have when I became rector in 2017,” he said in the run-up to the TTC meeting.

The university prides itself on an agnostic policy towards the country (with the exception of a total boycott of ties with Iran and Russia). Three committees evaluate research collaborations for possible human rights violations, the risk of misuse of the research and its general safety.

The university generally does not collaborate with Chinese defense universities that are part of the Seven Sons of National Defense, a grouping of universities affiliated with the country’s Ministry of Industry and believed to maintain close ties with its military. . The Flemish government, which defines educational policy for the northern region of Belgium, including Leuven, recently banned any further collaboration with the group, it announced in January.

Sels said he also turned down three Chinese-funded grants earlier this year, saying the university had a hunch that the research could be used for both military and civilian applications (so-called dual-use research).

Sels said his Chinese counterparts have also increasingly made it clear to their European partners that they do not want to collaborate in sensitive research areas like semiconductors and artificial intelligence. In a strange way, the university director said, it opened up easier conversations about cooperation in other areas like climate change. Sels warned against cutting all ties with China, as this would harm Europe even more.

The university’s barriers to sensitive research collaborations, the microchip champion’s pivot to cut ties with China: this is a paradigm shift for the European research center and a radical departure from to decades of increased global integration of research and academia.

“The geopolitical situation is one of the realpolitik“, declared Ridouani, the mayor.


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