Research and Innovation Services



Frequently Asked Questions about Export Controls.

General questions

What are Export Controls?

Export Controls are a series of laws that limit the export, brokering or transfer of certain goods, components, software, technology or technical assistance from the UK to another destination outside of the UK. (see Department for International Trade guidelines on the GOV.UK website).

What constitutes an “export” under Export Control legislation?

This includes physical exports (e.g., sharing a prototype) but also electronic transfers, sharing information verbally, and providing access via the cloud to a person or entity based outside UK.  

Why do we need Export Controls?

​Export Controls are in place to promote global security and facilitate responsible exports. The UK Government views some items and information as worthy of requiring approval before they are sent abroad.

Export Controls enable the UK Government to restrict the export of certain items, approve items that might otherwise be prevented from export through licensing, or apply penalties if exports of controlled items are made without an export licence.  

Does transiting goods via the UK constitute an 'export'?

Certain products/technologies transiting the UK physically or electronically are regarded as being exported when they leave the country and are subject to Export Control legislation. Contact the UCL Export Control team for clarification and advice.

Who is impacted by Export Control regulation?

Export Controls and trade sanctions apply to everyone, including all UCL staff and students at the University who engage in the transfer or export of controlled goods and related information abroad. Export Control legislation applies to academic research and teaching in the same way as it does in business. 

When did these controls come into effect?

Export Controls have been enacted for decades in the UK, but the principal legislation currently in place came into force in 2009. Some amendments were made to this following Brexit due to the UK no longer being part of the European single market. 

What are the UK Strategic Export Control lists?

The UK Strategic Export Control Lists specify goods, technology and software that are controlled for the purposes of export and for which an export licence must be obtained before they can be transferred to a destination outside of the UK.

Download the UK consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items that require export authorisation from the GOV.UK website.

Enquiry and licence

How do I check if I require an export licence?

The guidelines provided on our Export Control webpage, the UK consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items that require export authorisation and the Department for International Trade Goods Checker Tool provide a good starting point.

The Goods checker tool is an online tool that can be used to browse and search the UK Strategic Export Control Lists to help identify whether or not a particular item is controlled.

Once those options have been explored, if you need further advice, you can complete the UCL export control enquiry form. The UCL Export Controls team will review your enquiry and provide guidance.  

Who can help me with obtaining an Export licence?

If following a review of your export control enquiry, it is established that you require an export licence, you will be asked to formally submit an Export Control licence request via Worktribe. This can be done by selecting the ‘Export Control Licence’ option under the 'Type of Contract' field. 

What is Open General Export Licence (OGEL) and how is it useful for researchers at UCL?

UCL has an institutional Open General Export Licence (OGEL), which permits UCL to export certain controlled goods within the EU via a simplified process.

OGELs are licences with set terms and conditions which you must comply with. They permit the export of controlled goods on the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items that require export authorisation to named destinations. via a simplified process.

However, in order to use the OGEL, you first need to inform the UCL Export Control team that your research may require a licence so that the team can review your case and keep detailed records of when and how these licences are being used. 

What if I need a different type of export licence?

UCL has an institutional SPIRE account through which it can apply for any other type of export licence. UCL’s SPIRE account and the related application process are managed by the Export Control team which will assist you in applying for the appropriate export licence from Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) where required.

Is an export licence required for any controlled item leaving the UK or only for items created in the UK?

A licence is required in order to export controlled items regardless of the origin of the item. In some circumstances, UCL may be required to comply with laws of other jurisdictions, for instance, US Export Control.

Are Export Control-related questions included in the Worktribe Project Risk Assessment?

The Worktribe Project Risk Assessment includes a question related to ‘dual-use’. If you are completing the Risk Assessment and think that Export Controls may apply to your research, please indicate this there.

Accountability and why Export Control is important

Who is ultimately accountable for ensuring compliance with Export Control regulations?

Everyone is individually responsible for their compliance with export control laws, including assessing if their research/teaching falls within the scope of export controls, seeking advice where required, and submitting a request in Worktribe for an Export Control licence where the UCL Export Controls team has confirmed this is needed.

The ultimate accountability sits with the person who is exporting the controlled goods/information. At an institutional level, UCL has put in place processes and support to assist the research community in complying with this regulation.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Breaching Export Control laws is a criminal offence. Any individuals and the University involved in breaching these laws risk very significant financial penalties; imprisonment for up to 10 years; revocation of the licence and seizure of the controlled goods, as well as potential harm to others and significant reputational damage in the event of non-compliance.

Support and guidance

Who do I contact if I have questions about Export Controls?

In the first instance, please visit our Export Control webpage which contains some general guidance and links to the GOV.UK website where additional information can be found.

If further help is needed, you can email ris.complianceandassurance@ucl.ac.uk or fill out the UCL export control enquiry form.

How can I learn more about Export Controls?

In the first instance, please visit our Export Control webpage which contains some general guidance and links to the GOV.UK website where additional information can be found.

For an overview of Export Controls and how they are managed at UCL, watch our training session for researchers and professional services staff (UCL login required). This training will help you understand how Export Controls might apply to your work and offers practical tips on what to do when faced with an Export Controls query.

Export Control scenarios

Do talks at international conferences count as export?

Taking information outside the UK on a memory stick or a laptop in order to attend a conference or presenting information from the UK to non-UK attendees could require a licence if the information being shared is subject to Export Controls.

This information would generally include practical information such as schematics, blueprints, designs, and technical descriptions which would cause the recipient to be able to independently develop a controlled technology. This does not apply to information already in the public domain.

Does an online training course that's available to individuals abroad count as an export?

Yes, an online course accessible from outside of the UK could be considered an export and therefore subject to Export Controls. However, most courses that UCL deliver contain basic information only that would qualify for the public domain exemption.

If the course is very advanced, and it contains information that would be considered under export controls, then requirements of the Export Controls legislation could apply. 

Is an export licence required before a foreign national can work on a project at UCL?

The UK Export Controls regime is not based on nationality. Provided that the individual concerned is employed and/or contracted by UCL, this would not trigger export control requirements. However, if the individual concerned were to export controlled item(s)/information overseas, either by taking that item(s)/information with them on a laptop or sending it to contacts overseas, this would be considered exporting and would require a licence.  

The US export control regime is different; it considers nationality, and this needs to be considered when working with US collaborators/partners, or when working on a piece of US technology in the UK, as different rules may apply. 

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) applies to all international students and researchers (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study or research at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects.

Refer to the UK Government Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) guidance on the GOV.UK website for more information.

Does the temporary export of equipment count as export?

The temporary export of controlled equipment is considered an export under the legislation because the equipment is being sent outside the UK. However, if the equipment is to be temporarily exported for the purposes of fieldwork, or for repair or replacement, it may be possible to take advantage of an existing Open General Export Licence (OGEL) if the equipment in question is to be exported to one of the countries listed under the OGEL.

I am interested in the export of software that uses encryption (but not the development of new encryption software), could this software potentially be subject to export controls?

Encryption technologies are controlled. This could apply to computing equipment that contains encryption software, and also the software that uses encryption in its functionality.  

There are a number of exceptions, which are detailed and complex. We recommend that you seek advice if you are proposing to export software that uses encryption.

Would adding my software to the Windows store with a non-commercial licence be considered an export?

At the point it is uploaded, this would be considered an export because it can be downloaded by others around the world. For open-source software (software open to inspection without restriction) you might be able to use an exemption. However, if the software uses encryption, encryption controls may apply too (see above).

If UCL works with UK-based subsidiaries of an international organisation on research and development, is it reasonable to expect that information shared by UCL will be transferred overseas and, if so, what are UCL's responsibilities in relation to export controls?

As a rule, the organisation responsible for export control compliance is the organisation that sends the controlled item or technology outside of the UK.

However, if we consider that a UK-based recipient of controlled goods or information is likely to send the item or information to a high-risk jurisdiction or country under embargo or any other restriction, or that the item/information might be a risk to National Security, then ‘End User’ controls might apply.

If you have any doubts or concerns, please contact the UCL Export Control team.