What is export control?

Academics and researchers are referred to the University’s Export Control and Trade Sanctions Policy for details.

UK export control refers to a set of legal restrictions on the transfer of certain goods, technology, software and knowledge from the UK to a destination or destinations outside the UK. The controls apply to researchers and universities in the same way as any organisation.

Export controls are designed to restrict the export and communication of sensitive technology or strategic technology or strategic goods, with the aim of preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation and countering international threats such as terrorism.

Export could include the physical movement of goods or the transfer of software, data, technology or know how by any means (including verbal or electronic transfer). Export can occur through activities such as academic and commercial collaborations, teaching, consultancy and licensing activities, or travelling to a third country overseas with a laptop which contains controlled items.

If you work falls under the export control legislation, then a licence may be required in order to continue.

What items are controlled?

The Government regularly updates the UK Strategic Export Control Lists and the Goods Checker Tool.

The laws around export control focus on two main areas: military items and dual-use items, as well as end-use controls.

Military items are those with a specific military application. Examples might include radar antennae, weapon-locating systems, thermal imaging devices, target acquisition and tracking systems.

Dual-Use items are those with a legitimate civilian use, which also have a military application. Examples might include dual-use parts for nuclear reactors, chemicals, micro-organisms and toxins, navigation and avionics, unmanned aerial vehicles and associated technology.

End-Use items are those which are likely to be sent to an end-user where there are concerns that they might be used in a WMD programme or for military purposes by a country subject to sanctions.

Exemptions relevant to academic researchers include:

  • Information already in the public domain (eg journals, books, website)
  • Basic scientific research, defined as ‘experimental or theoretical work undertaken principally to acquire knowledge of the fundamental principle or phenomena or observable facts and not primarily directed towards a specific practical aim or objective’.

BUT exemptions must be confirmed with the ECJU prior to continuing with the export;

AND these exemptions don’t apply in cases where the proposed export is subject to End-Use, End-User or destination concerns/controls. If you are aware of, or suspect, WMD end-use, then the item is still controlled and a licence may be required for export.

Who must comply with export control legislation?

All individual academics and researchers are responsible for ensure that they comply with export control legislation. Non-compliance can result in significant financial penalties and is a serious criminal offence, with custodial sentences of up to 10 years.

Academics and researchers, particularly in STEM disciplines, should ensure that they:

How to apply for an export control licence

Having checked whether you are likely to need an export control licence, there are two categories of licence that you are most likely to require:

  • Open General Export Licences (OGELs)
  • Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs)

Please use the OGEL and Goods Checker to find out which applies to you before you start an application on SPIRE, the Export Control Organisation’s online export licensing system. Then:

  • Create an individual login on SPIRE
  • Contact Research Governance to tell us about your application and your login. We will then liaise with the Office of the General Council to enable you to make applications in the name of Aston University.
  • Follow the instructions in the ‘Using SPIRE to get an export licence’ guidance. You will need your:
    ‘Control List entry’ from the Goods Checker
    the name of the OGEL from the OGEL Checker (if applicable), OR
    for a SIEL, an end-user undertaking form to accompany your application.
  • Your final application will be authorised and submitted in SPIRE by the central account holder.
  • Please note that Licences are usually granted for a specific item exported to a specific named person. Individual licences are required if you want to export the same item to another person/country, or if you want to export other items.
How do I know if my licence has been granted and what do I do next?

You will receive notification of the outcome of your application via the SPIRE system. The Export Control Organisation, or HMRC, can audit the operation of any licence and you must retain a copy of the Single Administrative Document, emails and all other correspondence relating to the licence for audit purposes.

The impact of Brexit on export control for dual-use items

Licensing requirements for the export of certain items from Great Britain (GB) to the EU have changed.

Existing EU export control legislation was retained in UK law and applies to GB. Controlled items that currently move licence-free to the EU, such as dual-use items will require licences to move between GB and the EU.

The provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol mean that existing EU export control legislation and current licensing requirements continue to apply in Northern Ireland.

An export licence is needed to export controlled dual-use items from Northern Ireland to another country outside the EU.

There are no licensing requirements to move dual-use items from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

Help and additional resources

Page last updated on: 29/03/2022