Do I need an export licence?
Export Control survey
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It should be noted that failure to properly assess and comply with export control requirements can result in delay, suspension or termination of activities, projects, and other transactions, including loss of associated posts, research awards and funding. Furthermore, exporting controlled items without the required export licence(s) is a criminal offence that may result in fines and even imprisonment. These consequences can damage and disrupt the reputation and work of the individuals involved and the College itself. Please consult the guidance on this website carefully and you can also contact the Research Office for advice and support in navigating potential export control requirements for your activities.
Export controls will not apply to all of the College's research and teaching volume, but it remains crucial for us to consider whether our activites are within the scope of export controls, to ensure responsible conduct of the College's academic mission. We strongly recommend following the guidance in the accordion below to establish whether your work might be affected by export controls.
College staff with activities involving sensitive topics, materials, or information (see step 2 in the accordion below) and overseas participants (see step 1 below) should submit the Export Control Self-Assessment Record form (internal to the College) via the button on the right-hand side of this page. This contributes to our audit trail by recording the consideration of export control risk, thereby demonstrating the College’s commitment to responsible exporting and allows the Research Office to provide additional advice and support where necessary for a compliant approach.
For a quick, first assessment of whether export controls apply to your research or teaching, see our forthcoming resources page, which will host diagrams and other tools to facilitate consideration of export controls and related topics.
In the meantime, please follow the three steps below:
1. Are you exporting items?
Research or teaching activity may be regarded as “exporting items” if it involves:
- Tangible or intangible (e.g. physical, electronic or verbal) transfers or disclosures of goods, software, technology to any recipient (a natural or legal person) outside of the UK;
- The transfer or disclosure of items within the UK for use in a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programme outside the UK (including teaching taking place in the UK);
- The transit of controlled items through the UK to other destinations;
- Trafficking and brokering, such as arranging the transfer of certain items, particularly military goods, between two other countries (this is less likely to affect universities).
Examples of exports
For any transfer or disclosure to consitute an export it is only required that the recipient is located outside the UK – recipient nationality and affiliation with the College or other organisations are not relevant. The following examples all constitute exports (i.e. transfers or disclosures) and require a licence if they involve controlled items:
- Transporting a prototype device or component to a research partner outside the UK;
- Taking a laptop or other device containing electronic files to an overseas conference;
- Accessing electronic files stored on a file sharing system while outside the UK;
- Teaching a remote class where any of the participants are located overseas;
- Discussing certain technologies with another colleague (including both honorary staff and substantive College employees) virtually or by telephone while they are not in the UK.
Key questions to ask yourself include:
- What am I physically sending out of the country?
- What am I physically taking with me during overseas travel?
- What am I accessing remotely when outside the UK, irrespective of the file server location?
- What am I communicating or disclosing to anyone outside the UK (including in electronic messages, telephone or video conversations, and other online or digital interactions)?
If you are exporting items, you must check whether these items are controlled. Please proceed to the next step below.
2. Are the items being exported controlled?
Items requiring a licence to be exported are found on the UK Control Lists. This includes:
- Any items with specifically designed or modified for military application; and
Dual-use items which have civil and potential military applications, such as nuclear technology, certain chemicals, and engineering products.
How can I identify if my research or teaching involves controlled items?
- Always start by searching for your items on the UK Control Lists using the ECO Goods Checker. Choosing the right search terms is essential: it is usually best to use a variety of short and simple search terms rather than longer phrases, to ensure that relvant entries are not missed. We strongly recommend reading the ECO Goods Checker Example Searches.
- If in doubt, you should contact the Research Office for assistance and advice in the first instance. The ECJU also offers the means to help you find your items on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists and can be contacted by emailing email@example.com or telephoning 020 7215 4594.
Subjects most affected by Export Controls
Natural sciences and engineering disciplines are most affected by export controls. HM Government lists high risk areas of academic research as including:
- aeronautical and space technology
- applied chemistry, biochemistry and chemical engineering
- applied physics
- electrical and mechanical engineering
- instrumentation and sensors
- materials technology
- nuclear technologies
- production and process technology
- telecommunications and information technology
By extension, if any of the items that you intend to export fall within one or more of the following red flag areas, you will likely need to apply for a licence:
- Viruses and pathogens or related research
- Vaccine technology, which might be used to inoculate troops using chemical or biological weapons
- Civil technology which could be used or adapted as a component for military purposes
- Technology which could support activities in facilities which house weapons technology or delivery programmes, e.g., hardened underground facilities, low-energy signature or hermetically sealed buildings; vacuum systems; autonomous buildings
- Ancillaries and support equipment at some facilities, including those which house uranium enrichment centrifuges or nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, can be of concern even if the technology is itself ubiquitous
- Toxic chemicals that can cause serious injury or death
- Fissile materials, radioactive materials or equipment for their detection or handling
- Materials characterisation equipment
- Materials production techniques
- Carbon fibre composites with specific tensile / compressive / modulus properties
- High-nickel alloys (including high-grade aluminium alloys) with specific tensile / compressive / modulus properties
- Uranium enrichment for non-civil nuclear energy
- High-grade radioactive material
- Unmanned equipment (even if used only for atmospheric research)
- Optoelectronics (lasers)
- Ocean bottom survey equipment
- Hydrophones or sonar equipment
- Ground penetrating radar
- Stealth technology
- Electromagnetic absorption
- Missiles, rockets, and related technology (high-performance materials, guidance systems, propellants etc.)
- Autonomous vehicles, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and associated technology
- Space qualified goods, software, or technology (>100km over Earth surface operation)
Key questions to ask yourself include:
- Have I checked my activities against the UK export control lists to confirm or rule out matches to any items to be used or produced?
- Is the subject matter of my activities inherently sensitive or hazardous?
- Have I assessed the potential risks concerning the standing, actions and intentions of involved parties?
- Will I be using any specialised goods, software or technology of foreign origin?
US Export Controls
If you are collaborating with any party in the United States or if you are planning to use goods, software or technology that originate from or have been transferred to you from the US, your project may be subject to US Export Controls. Please see the FAQs page for more information.
If you are exporting (transferring or disclosing) any controlled items, you must apply for an export licence. Even if the items you are exporting are not controlled, you might still need a licence depending on who the recipient is, where they are located and the intended end-use of the items. Please proceed to the next step below.
3. Who is the recipient of the items?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it is advisable to apply for a licence even if the item is not listed as a “controlled” item:
- Do you know, or have any reason to suspect, that the exported item may support the design, development, production, stockpiling or use of a weapon, especially nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?
- Does the end-user country potentially have a WMD or missile programme?
- Could the goods, software or technology be used in any part of WMD development or delivery infrastructure?
- Is the end user, importer, or any third parties to the transaction known to be of concern?
- Are you uncertain about the precise identity or circumstances of the end user?
- Are there WMD research and development programmes at universities in the state or region concerned?
- Are there civil nuclear reactors outside of IAEA controls in the country that the items are being exported to?
- Are you collaborating with a civil space programme that may also be involved in ballistic missile development?
Suspicious behaviour of participants
It remains important to consider whether any person or organisation with whom you are working is acting in a manner that could be regarded as suspicious. Please consider the conduct of anyone who will be in receipt of or have access to the relevant goods, software, or technology - including students, staff, research collaborators, subcontractors, and suppliers. If your suspicions are raised by any of the following, please take advice from the Research Office:
- Is the recipient reluctant to offer information about the end-use of the items?
- Has the recipient asked that the goods be transferred to a forwarding address in the UK?
- Has the recipient made unusual requests regarding shipping, packaging or labelling?
- Is the recipient new to you and is your knowledge about them incomplete?
- Is the recipient located in an area under strict security control or in an area to which access is severely restricted, or which is unusual in view of the type of items being provided or installed?
- Are there unusual requirements for excessive confidentiality about final destinations, customers, or specifications of items?
- Is the recipient or end user a military or government research body?
- Is the project requested unusual in any way, e.g. the quantity or performance capabilities of the goods significantly exceed, without satisfactory explanation, the amount or performance normally required for the stated end use?
Sanctions and embargoes
Take particular care when working with parties and locations that are subject to UN or UK sanctions and embargoes. For a list of countries that are currently subject to such measures, see the Government’s website on trade sanctions, arms embargoes, and other trade restrictions. We also recommend reviewing the UK Sanctions List and OFSI's Consolidated List of financial sanctions to ensure that none of the organisations or individuals involved in your activities are subject to UK or international sanctions.
Sanctions measures include arms embargoes and other trade controls. Additional restrictions can apply when dealing with countries that are subject to sanctions, e.g., restrictions on the actions of individuals and entities, including their ability to travel or to use financial systems. They can also include additional restrictions on exports or trade activities. This means that certain items are controlled, even if they are not specified on the UK Export Control Lists.
College Relationship Review Policy (RRP)
If your proposed activities involve parties from any of the countries listed in Appendix A of the Relationship Review Policy (PDF), you must obtain authorisation from the relevant Head of Department and the College Scrutiny Committee before commencing work.