Huawei Technologies Co has earmarked US$100 million to encourage start-ups in Asia-Pacific to use its cloud software as the Chinese telecoms giant accelerates a move to bolster revenue from software services after US sanctions crippled its smartphone business. Huawei announced the plan at its Huawei Cloud Spark Founders Summit, which took place in Singapore and Hong Kong on Tuesday. The Shenzhen-based company said the funds will be deployed in the Asia-Pacific region over the next three years, with the programme – known as Spark – aiming to lure 1,000 start-up applicants and finance 100 of them to use Huawei Cloud. Zhang Ping’an, chief executive of Huawei’s Cloud Business Unit, said that the Spark Programme has attracted 40 start-ups after launching last year and that Huawei was working with local governments, venture capital investors and universities to attract more customers. Huawei has been putting growing emphasis on its cloud business in recent years after its core telecoms equipment and smartphone operations took a major hit after US trade sanctions. The company was blacklisted by the US in 2019 on national security grounds, cutting its access to key software and components, such as Google’s Android operating system. Can China’s Huawei transform itself from hardware giant into a leading software provider In the first quarter of 2021, Huawei was the second-largest cloud provider in China with a market share of 20 per cent on the back of strong 116 per cent growth from a year earlier, according to market research firm Canalys. The growth was driven primarily by new internet customers and government projects, as well as key wins in the automotive sector. This puts Huawei second only to Alibaba Cloud, which accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the market. Alibaba Group Holding owns the South China Morning Post. Elsewhere, Huawei is focusing on strengthening its foothold in Asia as the US and its allies continue to shun services provided by the telecoms giant in areas such as 5G. Jeffery Liu, president for Asia-Pacific at Huawei, said at the forum that the company was committed to being “in Asia-Pacific, for Asia-Pacific”. “[We will] provide comprehensive support to the establishment of a sustainable start-up ecosystem that creates new value for this dynamic region,” he added. Meanwhile, competition in cloud services is heating up in Southeast Asian countries, as Alibaba and Tencent Holdings also look to increase their share in the region.