About Export Controls

Export control legislation appears complex; however, the aims are clear and there is considerable information to help guide those affected.

High Risk Areas

The UK government has identified the following high-risk areas related to academic research:

  • Aeronautical and space technology
  • Applied chemistry, biochemistry and chemical engineering
  • Applied physics
  • Biotechnology
  • Electrical and mechanical engineering
  • Instrumentation and sensors
  • Materials technology
  • Nuclear technologies
  • Production and process technology
  • Telecommunications and information technology

The above list has been identified to guide in an academic setting and is slightly different than the actual dual-use categories on the UK Strategic Export Control list

What do Export Controls Cover?

Export controls apply to “Items” referred to in the lists and this guidance are:

Goods: equipment, components, materials, samples, chemicals and biological agents that meet the definitions of the goods on the UK Strategic Export Control List or potential/suspected WMD end-use.

Software: that is specially designed for the development, production or use of controlled goods

Technology: the specific information and know-how required or necessary for the development, production or use of controlled goods. Controlled technology can take any form including data, research papers, designs, manuals, formulae, prototypes and similar. 

Export controls apply to Items that are exported from the UK to a destination overseas. Export controls also apply to non-controlled Items being exported to entities (collaborator, funder, partner etc) where there are concerns about the end-use or user, for example a company based in a key country with embargoes/sanctions applied to them. If the entity you intend to provide controlled Items to is in the UK a licence will not be required. However, please ensure you include the following statement when providing the controlled Items: 

"This Item/information is a UK Export controlled Item/information, categorised by code XXX on the UK Strategic Export Control List. A licence might be required by your organisation to export this Item/information outside the UK: it is your organisation’s responsibility to check whether such a licence is required."

Export controls broadly fit into the following areas:

  • Items on the UK Strategic Export Control List, which includes two key areas:
    • Military Items specifically designed or modified for military use
    • Dual-use Items are Goods, Software or Technology designed for civilian use but could be used for WMD or military purposes.
  • End-Use Controls (also referred to as 'catch-all'): Goods, Software and Technology not on the export control list but where Items may or will be put into WMD or military end-uses
  • Countries, individuals or groups subject to UK embargoes and sanctions will have additional export control measures against them.

What is an Export?

An export can be a tangible Item or intangible:

  • Tangible Items - the shipment of tangible Items such as hard copy documents, equipment, materials, samples, chemicals, biological agents, research data carried overseas on electronic devices, equipment, machinery etc.
  • Transfer of intangible Items:
    • Digital transfers e.g. emails, text messages, telephone, video conferences, accessing protected information from the the UK (based on a server anywhere in the world) whilst the person accessing the Item is not in the UK. 
    • Face-to-face activities held overseas by any University staff, students or associates where controlled Items are shared e.g. meetings with colleagues at an overseas institution, presentations at conferences, meetings with collaborators etc. Face-to-face activities with overseas visitors/researchers at the University.
    • Via digital platforms e.g. delivering a course to recipients overseas.

End-use concerns and red flags

When carrying out research or an activity with a collaborator it’s important you fully understand who they are and where your Item is destined, you should be suspicious if: 

  • Your collaborator is new to you, or your knowledge about them and their business is incomplete or inconsistent?
  • Your collaborator is reluctant to offer information about the end-use or end-user of the Items.
  • Your collaborator is reluctant, during normal negotiations, to provide clear answers to commercial or technical questions which would be expected.
  • Your collaborator or the final end-user is military or a government research body?
  • Your collaborator is in an area under strict security control or which access is severely restricted, or the equipment being installed is unusual for this area?
  • Your collaborator has failed to give a reasonable explanation about why Items are requested which are unusual for the project or your collaborators normal business or technical sophistication.
  • Your collaborator requested goods be transferred to a forwarding address in the UK or there unusual packaging, labelling or shipping requests.
  • There are unusual requirements for excessive confidentiality regarding final destinations, further customers, or specifications of Items.
  • There is something unusual about the project e.g. Items requested are not what would be expected, lump-sum cash payments are offered or a higher price is offered than is expected.

If there are any end-use or user concerns a check can be carried out with the ECJU for further advice.



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