Guidance on Export Control Legislation

Introduction

Export controls are measures imposed by the government to regulate the transfer of goods to other states. Exports may be controlled because of:

  • Concerns about internal repression, regional instability or other human rights violations in a foreign country
  • Concerns about the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in a foreign country
  • Foreign policy and international treaty commitments (e.g. trade sanctions and arms embargoes)
  • National and collective security of the UK and its allies

Export controls apply to goods designed for military purposes but also to dual-use goods which have been designed for civilian purposes but may have military uses.

In the UK, the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) is responsible for regulating all exports of strategic goods through the issuing and monitoring of export licences.

Compliance with export control legislation is a legal requirement with penalties up to 10 years imprisonment.

When do Export Controls Apply?

Export controls apply to the physical export, electronic transfer or other other transfer by any means of goods, software, information or technology. Technology includes any specific information necessary for the development, production or use of goods which are subject to controls. They apply to University staff in the same way as any other organisation. Controlled export activities include:

  • Sending or taking physical items, such as research samples, overseas
  • Travelling overseas carrying information on a laptop or USB
  • Electronic transfers of software, information or data via email, text or uploading information to an overseas server
  • Online/virtual teaching resources available for access from overseas
  • Telephone, video conferencing or other communication

Applied research in certain fields is high risk and could potentially be misused for military purposes. These areas are usually in the STEM subjects and include:

  • 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

Whom does this affect?

Any member of University staff intending to transfer:

  1. Items on the military list or Annex IV of the dual use list (mostly sensitive nuclear items) outside of the UK;
  2. Other items on the dual use list; and/or
  3. Items to individuals, entities or countries on the sanctions list.

The controls apply to hardware (including equipment, tools, components and materials) and also to software and technology. Technology includes information useful of the development, production or use of goods which are subject to controls.

Controlled exports include:

  1. Sending or taking physical items overseas;
  2. Travelling overseas carrying information on a laptop or USB;
  3. Electronic transfers, emails, texts, uploading information to an overseas server;
  4. Online/virtual teaching and learning resources; or
  5. Telephone or other communication (such as Skype or FaceTime).

Which areas are most likely to be affected?

  • Nuclear science or engineering
  • Biological Sciences relating to viruses, pathogens and vaccines
  • Chemical or toxic properties
  • High strength materials
  • High specification electronics, computers or telecommunications
  • Automation and control
  • Cryptography
  • Lasers, sonar and optics
  • Navigation and avionics
  • Submersible equipment
  • Aerospace and space

What is not affected?

  • Basic Scientific Research: experimental or theoretical work undertaken principally to acquire knowledge of fundamental principles or phenomena or observable facts;
  • Information in the public domain freely available without restriction.

One more important control: End Use. 

Does the activity raise any WMD end use control concerns? If a member of staff knows or has reason to suspect that an item not on the military or dual use list control list may be used for WMD purposes, a licence is required.

Red Flags – WMD End Use Concerns

  • Is the partner reluctant to offer information about the end-use of the items?
  • Has the partner asked that the goods be transferred to a forwarding address in the UK?
  • Are unusual shipping, packaging or labelling arrangements requested?
  • Is the partner new to you and is your knowledge about them incomplete?
  • Is the partner 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 equipment being installed?
  • Are there unusual requirements for excessive confidentiality about final destinations, or customers, or specifications of items?
  • Is the partner 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?

Question 1: Is my item controlled?

Use the goods checker tool to search the UK strategic export control list using a range of relevant keywords. Researchers are best placed to understand their research and its implications and therefore determine whether an item is controlled. It is recommended that you keep a record of your reasoning and decision making on whether an item is controlled or not.

Under certain circumstances, dual-use items may be de-controlled. These de-controls cannot be applied to physical samples or where there are dual use concerns (see Q2).
Information, technology or software in the public domain, freely available without restriction
Basic scientific research: experimental or theoretical work undertaken solely to obtain new knowledge of the fundamental principles of phenomena or observable facts. It is not directed towards a practical aim or goal. In practice all three of the following criteria must be met:

  • Research is low Technology Readiness Level (TRL1-3)
  • It has no links to industry such as a commercial partner, collaborator or funder
  • No collaborator involved is imposing any conditions on publication of the results
  • If your item is controlled, it may need an export licence. Please seek further advice.

Question 2: Are there End-Use or End-User concerns?

If you have reason to suspect that an item you plan to export may be used for military purposes, a licence is required even if the item is not on the controlled list or is de-controlled. If you have concerns regarding an End-User, you can request a due diligence check using this google form.

End-Use concern red flags include:

  • Is the partner reluctant to offer information about the end-use of the items?
  • Has the partner asked that the goods be transferred to a forwarding address in the UK?
  • Are unusual shipping, packaging or labelling arrangements requested?
  • Is the partner new to you and is your knowledge about them incomplete?
  • Is the partner 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 equipment being installed?
  • Are there unusual requirements for excessive confidentiality about final destinations, or customers, or specifications of items?
  • Is the partner 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?

If you have concerns regarding End-Use and think a licence may be required, please seek further advice.

Question 3: Do any sanctions or trade restrictions apply?

Check the list of UK sanctions regimes organised by theme and country to see if any restrictions apply.

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may need an export licence and should seek advice before proceeding.

What next?

Members of staff wishing to transfer items or knowledge can use the flowchart below to identify whether export is applicable. This flowchart does not ask whether items are controlled. If the item appears on the consolidated control list, please seek further guidance. The goods checker tool can be used to search the control list. 

Export Control Flowchart

US Export Controls

US export controls apply extraterritorially and so there are additional requirements relating to technology imported from the US which is subject to ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) or EAR (Export Administration Regulations). At the time of import, the supplier should have made you aware that the technology was subject to US export control. Please seek further advice if your work involves technology subject to US export control.

Export Control and Teaching

The same export control legislation applies to information shared with students accessing it overseas or undertaking project work overseas

  • ATAS is a flag that a course or project may fall under export controls
  • UG teaching material is likely to be in the public domain
  • PG courses are more likely to contain controlled material
  • It is preferable to modify courses to remove any controlled material
  • If this is not possible, an export licence will be required

Who to contact

Speak to either your Research Hub Manager or contact the Contracts Help Desk on 0114 2227774 or ri-contracts@sheffield.ac.uk with new enquiries. 

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