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Export Controls

All member countries of the UN are required to have a system of controls on exports of certain goods and technologies that- in addition to legitimate civilian applications – may also be misused for severe human rights violations, terrorist acts or the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  In some instances, individual academics may need an export licence from the Export Control Organisation (ECO) in order to carry out an activity related to their research – failure to obtain one being a criminal offence.

Export controls are not unique to the UK, all countries should have some form of an export control policy, legislation and enforcement mechanisms.  Some countries such as the US may impose limitation clauses on the way in which the recipients may use or share the import. This could include restricting access of the import to citizens of restricted countries. UK export controls do not impose such limitation clauses on recipients.

What does export mean?

Export controls apply to goods, technology, software and/or knowledge “exported” outside of the UK in the following ways:

  • Physical removal/transfer (shipped/freighted overseas – e.g. carriage of a laptop on a trip)
  • Electronic transfer (facsimile, e-mail, telephone, text message, video-conferencing).

Under exceptional circumstances export controls apply to transfers within the UK when the known ultimate end use is WMD related outside the UK.

What is controlled?

Strategic military and dual-use items that require export authorisation are published in the consolidated UK Strategic Export Control List. (note: the link works with Chrome, not IE)

There are four primary elements of the UK Strategic Export Controls:

  1. Export of military, paramilitary and radioactive items to any destination outside the UK.
  2. Exports of controlled dual-use technologies to destinations outside the EU – generally these are civil items and technologies that could be used for WMD purposes or potentially have military application.
  3. Export of more sensitive dual-use items of technology to any destination including within the EU.
  4. “Catch-all” control. This is based on end-user concerns and is intended to control goods and technologies which are not listed but which have a possible utility in an area of concern:
    1. For WMD, namely for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or explosive devices
    2. For a military end-use in an embargoed destinations.

The Export Control Organisation provides online checker tools which help to establish if items/knowledge are controlled and require an export control licence and to identify if an appropriate Open General Export Licence (OGEL) exists (note: the link works with Chrome, not Internet Explorer).   If you are going to register for an OGEL, you must ensure you can meet all the terms and conditions, before registering via SPIRE. If either no OGELs exist or you cannot meet all conditions, you will need to apply for a Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL) via SPIRE. Applications via SPIRE need to be done through an institutional login, for more information please contact the University’s Export Controls Compliance team at

Useful websites: