Foxconn Wins Top China Universities With New Remote Research Hub

Foxconn Technology Group’s bid to build a research-and-manufacturing hub in the remote hills of China’s southern Guizhou province has won backing from two of the nation’s top universities.

Under agreements with Tsinghua University and Peking University, the new facility will develop nanotechnology for use at Foxconn plants and the commercial application of vast quantities of data held by powerful computers, Chairman Terry Gou said yesterday. The site will work closely with a new factory in Guiyang that boosts energy efficiency and will use less chemicals.

While assembly of Apple Inc. iPhones and iPads made Foxconn famous, its materials and components development dates back to its founding 40 years ago when Gou made plastic TV tuner knobs. Research into new technologies is part of the company’s plan to tap into emerging business such as cloud computing, with Foxconn in April forming a venture with Hewlett-Packard Co. to jointly develop servers.

“Guiyang is a more natural place to focus more on the application side of that basic research,” Gou said yesterday.

The Guiyang plant is also part of a shift by Gou away from using China as a manufacturing base for exports toward serving the domestic market. The new hub is more than 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) inland from coastal Shenzhen where Foxconn opened its first China plant more than two decades ago.

The new factory, which represents the “fourth generation” of investment for Foxconn in China, is aiming for 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) worth of annual production by 2018.

Abundant Water

With clients including Apple Inc. seeking suppliers with more environmentally friendly manufacturing, Foxconn’s new plant is able to make use of abundant local water resources for cooling technology that automates humidity controls, Gou said. The plant will also use an automated process for painting mobile phones that is more environmentally safe than traditional spray guns, he said.

Foxconn’s agreement with Tsinghua at the research site builds on an earlier partnership with the university on the Beijing campus where the Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center was established.

Despite its remote, mountainous location, Gou said the new facility can be world-class.

“If you are familiar with Silicon Valley, you know it’s not famous for flatland, but hills,” Gou said. “So high technology can come from areas that aren’t famous for flatlands.”

— With assistance by Edmond Lococo, and Tim Culpan

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