American researcher Shane Todd role in collaborations between the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and Chinese firm Huawei was limited to some hardware tests and preliminary talks on a commercial project, a court heard on Friday.
Three of Dr Todd's colleagues at IME told the inquiry that the institute was not involved in any military or sensitive research involving the semiconductor material Gallium nitride (GaN), as suggested in a February article by the Financial Times on his death.
Dr Susai Lawrence Selvaraj, Dr Yuan Li and Dr Wang Wei Zhu from Dr Todd's GaN research group at IME, said such sensitive research was not possible as their team was in its infancy when Dr Todd was employed, and the operating speed of the devices that IME was focusing on was too slow for military applications.
Dr Todd was found hanged in his apartment here last June. His parents had alleged in the FT article that he was murdered over his work he did at IME that was linked to Huawei, which has been suspected of espionage by the United States government. Huawei has denied the allegations.
The IME GaN group was primarily working on research that could yield lower-cost GaN devices, which then can be used in LED lighting or the car industry, such as for electric vehicles.
The three colleagues also explained that an April 2012 meeting between IME and Huawei, was to allow the Chinese firm to gauge the capabilities of their group. But because their group was relatively new and inexperienced then, Huawei concluded that they had not demonstrated any capabilities.
The IME witnesses added that Huawei was looking for research on a material called Gallium nitride-on-silicon carbide, whereas the IME group's work was on Gallium nitride-on-silicon.
The April meeting was attended by the group, Huawei representatives, an IME industry project manager and a professor from the Nanyang Technological University. IME has since said that no projects ever resulted from these talks, although the institute did prepare a technical proposal for Huawei.
The three also stressed that research in this field dates back to 1993, and is common among other places such as the United States, Europe, Japan and Hong Kong, which have institutes and universities that are more advanced in this field than the IME.