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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:
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.
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.
Where goods are not listed on the ECO Consolidated List, you may still need a licence in the following three scenarios:
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.
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:
The ECO aims to turn around applications within 21 working days, though complex applications may take longer.
3 One copy of the SAD form is sent with the goods and one copy must be retained as a record.
Additional end use rules apply, see Embargoes and sanction on China
For countries currently subject to embargo, see Current arms embargoes and restrictions.
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.
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.
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:
Export controls can be complex and this note is intended as a brief overview. Two important points not included above are: