Export Control

Export Control


Alongside the considerations for managing risk in international research there are legal requirements. In the UK (and other countries) export control legislation is in place to regulate the export of goods (physical items), software, technology and information. This legislation applies where there is a high risk that research could be used for military purposes. With any international collaboration there is always the need for consideration of export control.

More information can be found here: Export controls applying to academic research - GOV.UK (

Export restrictions are also likely to be in place within the partner’s country. The US, in particular, has complex regulation in this area.


Export controls apply, regardless of the reason, to the following:

  1. to goods, software and technology appearing on control lists
  2. when there are concerns about end-use/dual-use or the end-user
  3. when destinations are subject to sanction or other restrictions

Export activities include:

  • Sending or taking physical items overseas
  • Travelling overseas carrying information on a device such as laptop or USB stick.
  • Accessing information e.g. from the cloud or email, whilst overseas
  • Electronic transfers of software, information or data e.g. by email or text, to overseas recipients
  • Online/virtual teaching resources available for access from overseas
  • Telephone, video conferencing or other communication with overseas participants

1) Export Control Lists

In the UK the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) administers export controls and licensing for military and dual–use items. If an item is on a Control List (UK Strategic Export Control Lists - GOV.UK ( then a licence will be required.

The ECJU provides two tools for checking items:

a Goods Checker and an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) checker.

The OGEL helps check if an OGEL exists and lists any associated conditions.

A licence will also be required if the criteria listed in points (2) and (3) above are met.

2) End-use/end-user Concerns

Goods not listed on Control Lists may still need a licence because of the end-use or end user. This area is less tangible areas of export control but some considerations are:

  • Is the partner reluctant to offer information or unclear 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?
  • Are there unusual requirements for excessive confidentiality about final destinations, 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? For example, are the performance capabilities of the goods significantly exceed for the stated end use without satisfactory explanation? 

It might be that there is nothing demonstrable but there is something that just does not feel quite right. If there are any concerns please contact us. 

3) Sanctions or Other Trade Restrictions

The UK uses sanctions for a variety of reasons. These fall into three categories: arms embargoes, trade sanctions and other trade restrictions. The current list of UK sanctions regimes (organised by theme and country should be checked to see if any restrictions apply. Other useful resources are:


Exceptions for academic research may apply if there are no physical items and no end-use/end-user concerns. These exemptions (which do have limits) fall into three main areas:

  • The research is in the public domain
  • Basic research: experimental or theoretical work which is not directed towards a specific practical aim or goal
  • Information needed to file a patent

Helping you decide

The Export Control Decision Flowchart has been designed to help researchers decide if export controls apply. This is just a guide and if you are unsure about any of the questions please contact us.

Contact us

If you have any questions or queries relating to any of the aspects above please contact the Research Policy Intelligence and Ethics Team at: