Export controls and research collaborations

UK export controls restrict the export of goods or technology, with the aim of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and countering terrorism. The controls apply to the physical movement of goods or the transfer of software, data, technology or know how by any means (including by email and telephone) from the UK to a destination outside the UK.

Where an export falls under one or more of the controls, a licence may be required before any transfer can be made. There is no automatic exemption for academics and researchers.

Failure to obtain an appropriate licence to export controlled goods is a criminal offence. 

 

If you would like help in working through export control requirements, please contact:

 

 

Export controls apply to physical goods or the transfer of software, data, technology, or know how which has a military application. The main areas of concern are military technology and technologies that can be used in nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or their means of delivery. The transfer can be physical or electronic. Distribution is from the UK to the destination outside the UK. 

There are three primary categories of control: 

  1. Military items

Items with a specific military application to be exported outside the UK fall into this category. The UK Consolidated List references the items that are controlled, including military items. If your item is on this list, then you need to obtain an export licence prior to transfer. If it is not on the list, you may need a licence under 3. below.

Some examples from the military list are: thermal imaging devices; target acquisition and tracking systems; phased-array radar antennae; and weapon-locating systems.

  1. Dual use items

Items with a legitimate civilian application which also have military application, to be exported outside the EU, fall into this category. The UK Consolidated List includes dual use items. If your item is on this list, then you need to obtain an export licence prior to transfer. If it is not on the list, you may need a licence under 3. below.

However, if your dual use item is listed in Annex IV of the control list, then you will need to obtain an export licence prior to transfer within the EU.

Some examples of dual use items: dual-use parts and materials for nuclear reactors; chemicals (eg precursors for toxic chemical agents); micro-organisms & toxins (eg live cultures of lassa fever virus, apart from vaccines); navigation and avionics (eg continuous output accelerometers); unmanned aerial vehicles and associated technology.

  1. End use

Where goods are not listed on the ECO Consolidated List, you may still need a licence in the following three scenarios:

  1. You have been informed or are aware that the export may be intended for use in connection with military equipment in an embargoed destination.  For countries currently subject to embargo, see Current arms embargoes and restrictions. There are also some restrictions on exports to China (see Embargoes and sanction on China) and to Russia (see EU sanctions against Russia).
     
  2. You have been informed or are aware that the export maybe intended for use in connection with WMD. WMD is defined as 'use in connection with the development, production, handling, operation, maintenance, storage, detection, identification or dissemination of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or the development, production, maintenance or storage of missiles capable of deliver of such weapons'1
     
  3. Transfers of items or information within the UK are subject to export controls when you have been informed or are aware that that the ultimate end use is related to WMD outside the UK.

The key tests in end-use controls are awareness of WMD risk, or being informed of such a risk. Awareness requires specific reasons to believe an item is intended to WMD purposes, not simply that an items may have WMD application.

 

1 Export Control Order 2008 No3231

 

 

There is no automatic exemption for academics and researchers and their work.

Software and technology (but not goods) which are listed on the UK Consolidated List may be decontrolled if the dual-use item is in the public domain or used for basic scientific research. This means that items that do appear on the list but are in the public domain or being used for basic scientific research are exempted. 

Basic scientific research is defined as 'experimental or theoretical work undertaken principally to acquire knowledge of the fundamental principles or phenomena or observable facts and not primarily directed towards a specific practical aim or objective'.2

Neither of these exemptions apply where there are specific end-use concerns.

 

2 AULP/KCL Higher Education Guide and Toolkit on Export Controls.

 

 

The UK Consolidated List is a listing of controlled goods and technology for which an export licence is required. The UK Consolidated List is compiled from 7 lists in various pieces of international legislation.

Goods Checker is a search tool designed to find items on the UK Consolidated List. A tip on using the database is to search using single words, rather than a descriptive string. The Goods Checker will provide the 'control rating' (sometimes called the 'Control List entry') for an item. Make a note of this rating as you will need it to apply for a licence.

 

 

There are two categories of licence that are most likely for universities to need.  

  1. Open general export licences (OGELs)
    OGELs are available for less restricted exports to less restricted destinations. OGELs are pre-published licences with set terms and conditions. There are currently over 40 OGELs available which cover a wide range of circumstances. 
     
  2. Standard individual export licences (SIELs)
    If your goods, technology, software, destination or situation are not covered by an OGEL, you will need to apply for SIEL. SIELs are organisation and consignee specific, for a set quantity and/or value of goods. You will need to provide support documentation such as end-user undertakings with the application.

OGEL Checker is a search tool designed to find a suitable standard OGEL licence. Make a note of the name of the OGEL as you will need it to apply for a licence. If no OGEL is available, you will need to apply for a SIEL in order to export the item. 

 

 

All applications, including OGELs or SIELs, are submitted via the ECO’s online export licensing system SPIRE.

To apply for a licence on SPIRE:

  1. Create an individual login on SPIRE
     
  2. Notify Research Services of your login and nature of your application. Research Services will then add you to the work group of Oxford, enabling you to make applications in the name of the University.
     
  3. Follow the instructions in the guidance document on the online application process 'using SPIRE to get an export licence'.  In order to apply, you will need:
  4. Your final application will be authorised and submitted to the ECO on SPIRE by Research Services.

The ECO aims to turn around applications within 21 working days, though complex applications may take longer.

 

 

  1. Where a licence is obtained, you will be informed through the SPIRE system and an ECO case officer will be assigned to you. The terms of the licence will list the rules covering your export. Subject to the terms, you may now export the item(s).
     
  2. Record keeping is vital and an auditable record of all transfers made under a licence must be retained. The ECO or HMRC have a right to audit the operation of any licence. Experience to date suggests that audits are frequent and time-consuming if the right documents are not to hand. Documentation to be retained include the export licence, details of the transfer (email file, post, etc), forms such as the Single Administrative Document (SAD) required under the terms of your licence3, and any correspondence with the ECO.
     
  3. Licences are typically granted for an individual item destined to a named recipient. If you would like to export other items or the same item to a different recipient, then a further licence must be obtained.
     
  4. Export control licences do not mean that requirements of other controls have been met. For example, the Health & Safety Regulations must be met as well as the terms of your export control licence.
     

3 One copy of the SAD form is sent with the goods and one copy must be retained as a record. 

 

 

Export licence requirements by destination
Destination An export licence is required in these situations
Inside UK Awareness that the ultimate end use is related to WMD outside the UK
Anywhere outside UK Items with a specific military application
Inside the EU All military items, dual use items in Annex IV of the UK Consolidated List, and items whose end use is WMD related
Outside the EU All military items, dual purpose items on the UK Consolidated List, and items whose end use is WMD related
To Russia Additional end use rules apply, see EU sanctions against Russia
To China

Additional end use rules apply, see Embargoes and sanction on China

Embargoed countries

For countries currently subject to embargo, see Current arms embargoes and restrictions.

From US Technology imported from the US and subject to ITAR controls must be cleared within the supplier’s licence prior to export
Other parts of world All military items, dual purpose items on the UK Consolidated List, and items whose end use is WMD related

 

 

If the technology was imported from the US and is subject to ITAR controls, export may be prohibited unless cleared within the supplier’s licence.

Ask the supplier if the technology is subject to ITAR controls and request a copy of the licence.

ITAR specifies that information and material concerning defence and military related technology (for items on the US Munitions List) may only be shared with US persons, unless authorisation is received from the US Department of State or a special exemption is used.

 

 

One of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is that some postgraduate students will study remotely from their home country in Michaelmas term 2020.

This guidance is for academic staff who will disseminate information to students based overseas who may require an export control licence. Most importantly, the export control guidance on this site applies equally to the dissemination of information and technology to students based overseas as it would to sharing research results with a collaborator or funder based overseas.

What are export controls?

UK export controls aim to prevent goods, technology, and know-how deemed sensitive from a national security perspective from falling into the wrong hands. The regulations restrict the export of certain 'controlled' goods and information with the aim of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and countering terrorism by denying access to those who might misuse the technology.

The regulations apply to technology that can be used for military purposes and also to 'dual-use' items. Dual-use items are goods, technology, software and know-how which are created for a civil purpose but could also be used in a military application, in the broadest sense.

The definition of 'export' is not limited to physical shipments of goods, but includes instances where software, data, technology, or intangible know-how is sent or shared with anyone based outside the UK. Exports can be made by any means, including email, telephone, online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, or accessing documents from the University’s website or shared drives via VPN (where the recipient is based outside the UK). 

There is no automatic exemption for academics, researchers, and students. Failure to obtain an appropriate licence to export controlled goods is a criminal offence. 

How export controls impact on teaching

Export controls are most likely to affect teaching in certain scientific and technical areas with potential for military or WMD applications. Directors of postgraduate teaching programmes which will be delivered to students working remotely from countries outside the UK and which cover a discipline that could involve disclosing controlled technology, data and know-how, should:

  1. Check whether the syllabus is covered by either of the two general exemptions: 
  • information already in the public domain, defined in the relevant legislation to include information 'available without restriction upon further dissemination' – copyright is not regarded as a restriction in this context)
    Most undergraduate teaching will fall under this exemption.
  • dissemination of basic scientific research, defined as 'experimental or theoretical work undertaken principally to acquire knowledge of the fundamental principles or phenomena or observable facts and not primarily directed towards a specific practical aim or objective'
    As a rule of thumb, consider whether the information being shared could be used to develop, improve, produce or use a physical item – if so, then it is not basic scientific research. 
  1. If aspects of the syllabus are not exempt under either of the two above provisions, check whether the data, know-how, information are ‘controlled’ by searching the UK strategic export control lists, which are enabled for keyword searching. Alternatively, the online checker tool can also be used determine if the information is controlled. An export licence is required to export controlled technology or know-how included on the list (more in point 4).
  2. If aspects of the syllabus are controlled (ie listed on the UK strategy export control list), consider whether there are alternative sources of publicly available teaching material that could be used or if the controlled elements of the syllabus can be delayed until the relevant students will be studying in Oxford.
  3. If it is not feasible to delay dissemination, then an export licence must be sought and granted before sharing the controlled information. To apply for a licence, follow the process described above under 'How do I apply for an export control licence?'. A licence will be required for each country or, in some cases, each recipient of the controlled information. This will take time, depending on the nature of the technology and its destination. There is no guarantee that a licence will be granted. It is essential that the above checks are made as early as possible.
     

Export controls can be complex and this note is intended as a brief overview.  Two important points not included above are:

  1. Controls may apply to items not listed on the control lists where the student is studying in a country under embargo or sanctions.
  2. Where remote teaching involves sharing technology which has been imported from the US and is governed by ITAR regulations, then the academic teacher must abide by the UK regulations above in addition to US restrictions.