Data Science

Export controls

What are export controls?

Export Control regulations and legislation may apply to your research if you transfer certain items or information to other countries, and in some cases between individuals in the UK. The aim of Export Controls are to prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, human rights abuses, and to counter international threats such as terrorism. The controls include restrictions on sharing information verbally or even accessing your own information while abroad. Different countries will have their own Export Control regulations. You should be aware of this when making transfers.

Everyone in the UK must comply with Export Control legislation administered by the UK Government’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU). The ECJU grants licences for military and duel use (designed for civilian but used for military purposes) items. It is a criminal offence if and it is therefore the responsibility of researchers to ensure their activities are compliant. Export controls are more likely to apply to your work if it is in a high-risk research area.

If you think that export controls apply to your research or research related activities please contact

Biomedical Science students in the Lab

Key questions regarding your research

  • Will I be exporting any controlled items or information?
  • Is there any chance my research could be put to military purposes or used in the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?
  • Do I know my partners and any risks they pose?
  • Are there any sanctions on the country, person, or organisation I am transferring to?

Use the Export Control Guidance Flowchart for help determining if Export Control applies to your research.

  • What do export controls apply to?

    UK export control legislation generally fits into three broad categories:

    • Software, goods and technology that are included on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists including:
      • Military goods software and technology
      • Dual-use items (can be used for both civil and military purposes), software and technology, goods for torture and radioactive sources (including nuclear and chemical exports)

    You can use the Checker Tools database to establish whether your items are listed on a Controls List.

    • End Use Controls: if your item isn’t on the Controls Lists, a licence may still be required under if items are sent to an end-user who may use them as part of a WMD programme
    • Exporting to countries, individuals or groups subject to UK sanctions - It is an exporter’s responsibility to check whether your items require an export licence.

    ‘Items’, as used in this guidance, includes the following:

    • Technology: information for the development, production, or use of controlled goods or software, as well as some specific information described in the control lists.
    • Goods: physical goods, i.e. equipment, components, materials, samples, chemicals and biological agents that meet the definitions of dual-use, military or WMD end-use as detailed above;
    • Software: instructions or programmes that control a computer's actions which are specially designed for the development, production or use of controlled goods.

    When considering whether export controls apply to your proposed activity, please consider the following questions:

    1. Is the item on the UK Controlled List of military or dual-use items?
    2. Is the item being transferred/exported outside of the UK?
    3. Has the item been imported from the US or has it been provided under a specific licence from the US government?
    4. Do any of the red flag apply (see above)

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above then please contact

  • What is an export?

    An export can be any transfer of goods, software or technology. This includes traditional exports such as shipping machinery, as well as the transfer of information in both physical and digital forms e.g. via USB, via email, through phone conversations, at conference presentations, or on Teams calls. The movement of items out of the UK is not limited to physical items.

    Generally, UK export controls regulate movement between countries, regardless of the nationality of the person receiving the items or information. This means that even actions such as taking your own information abroad, or accessing information via email or through the cloud while outside the UK, are considered exports.

    However, some export control restrictions apply even when goods are not being transferred from the UK to another country, these are WMD End-Use Controls (may be used as part of a weapons of mass destruction programme).

    You must not export items (goods, software or technology) you know or suspect may be used to make chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This includes controlled dual use items and non-physical items, as detailed above.


    There are also Government restrictions on certain non-UK persons studying specific subjects in the UK under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme. This scheme applies to subjects and research areas where knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. For ATAS enquiries, please contact:

  • Exemptions for the academic community

    Exemptions exist for some broad areas of academic research:

    1. Public Domain: controls do not apply to items that are “available without restriction upon further dissemination” (excluding any copyright restrictions). The items must be available to anyone, either free or in return for payment. Research is not exempt until after it is published – the act of publishing itself would not be subject to licencing unless the item is otherwise restricted (i.e. OFA).
    2. Basic Scientific Research: controls do not apply to research that is “experimental or theoretical work” in pursuit of basic scientific knowledge. This exemption does not apply where there are end use, end user or destination concerns – it is applicable for dual-use technologies. For the exemption to apply, the technology generated but be solely to add to the sum of human knowledge; it should not be intended for a short term (practical) aim; and it should not address a specific practical problem
    3. Patent applications: for dual-use ‘technology’, the controls do not apply to the minimum technical information required to support a patent application. This exemption does not apply to nuclear technology.

    If your item is subject to export controls but you believe an exemption applies, please contact to discuss.

  • International research and collaboration – due diligence

    When collaborating with international partners it is important to undertake appropriate due diligence checks and that the UK Government guidance on Export Control and collaborating internationally has been considered.

    Due diligence should be completed before engaging with any partner, even where export control restrictions are not indicated.

    Please refer to the University of Hull’s ‘Guidance on conducting international research’, the UK Government’s Trusted Research Guidance for Academia; and the University’s Due Diligence Policy for more information.

    Please contact for further information or support.

    US Export control

    It is important to note that different countries will have their own Export Control regulations. You should keep this in mind when making transfers as you will also be required to adhere to the collaborator’s requirements.

    The US has a variety of export control regulations including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

    The US regulations treat revealing controlled technology to a foreign or dual national as the same as exporting it to their home country. US controlled regulations apply to items even after they have left the United States and may restrict the re-export of items to other countries or the access other individuals can have to them (even where they are working within the University or on the same project). The regulations may apply even when only part of an item has US origins (in most cases 25% but for military items, any amount is applicable).

    You must contact to obtain consent to conduct activities with US-controlled items.

  • Applying for a Licence

    If you need to apply for an export licence, or you are unsure, please contact The University manages licence applications centrally. It should also be noted that licences may be required for exporting a variety of goods:

    For items on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists there are two main types of export licence:

    You should use the OGEL and Goods Checker to find out which applies for you.

  • Consequences of not working with an export licence where one is required

    Breaching export controls is a criminal offence. Penalties can vary depending on the nature of the offence. They range from:

    • revocation of a licence
    • seizure of goods
    • issuing of a compound penalty fine
    • termination of contract
    • disciplinary action in accordance with relevant University policies
    • imprisonment for up to 10 years

Red flags

Even if your goods, software etc. is not on one of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists you may still need a licence if they are intended to be used or may be used (duel use) for military purposes or an EMD programme (End Use Controls). You may wish to

  • You have not heard of the collaborator before or had any prior dealings (please conduct a due diligence review)
  • Your collaborator is reluctant to offer clear information, either about the end-use of the items or engage in normal communications during contract negotiations, or NDAs are used excessively;
  • The collaborators stated use for the items does not align with their normal business, or an aspect of the item (such as spare parts) are ordered excessively;
  • Substantial incentives to provide the items are offered;
  • The collaborator declines routine services, such as training provision, installation, and maintenance;
  • Unusually favourable terms such as higher price and/or lump-sum cash payment are offered;
  • Unusual shipping arrangements are requested – i.e. location, packaging etc;
  • The collaborator or the installation site are subject to excessive security / restrictions for the items being shared