Among other things, export controls serve to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in order to maintain peace at national and international level. They are aimed at managing the risks that fundamentally free research entails. The freedom of research is thus restricted as far as necessary by the export controls.
In practice, these restrictions comprise obligations to obtain licences and bans on the export and transfer of specific commodities (goods, software and technology).
The relevance of export controls is easiest to establish in the case of the conventional transfer of goods. Goods to be transferred or exported from within the country to another EU country or a third country must be non-critical in the meaning of foreign trade law. In order to determine this, the relevant lists of goods must be reviewed, among other things. However, it is not only the listed goods themselves that need to be reviewed. In addition to technical specifications, the potential for misuse is a further key aspect and, as such, so-called catch-all clauses are also reviewed. These apply where you are aware or have been informed by the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle – BAFA), that the goods are or at least could be intended for a certain purpose. An export ban may also exist in connection with certain recipient countries, above all in the case of embargoed countries (German only).
It is therefore also important to document possible uses for goods to be exported. A reliable classification of the goods and their possible uses always requires very precise and critical consideration. The know-how of (subject) experts is essential here as they can best assess their equipment and its potential for misuse.
Software is a collection of one or more programmes or micro-programmes fixed in any tangible medium (of expression) (see “Definition of terms used in this Annex” in Annex I of the EU Dual Use Regulation). However, care is necessary when it comes to the type of controlled transmission, as this not only includes the export of software on USB sticks or other storage media, but also transmission via electronic media (e.g. e-mail, fax) or provision via servers.
Export control law aspects may be relevant to software at various points in day-to-day research work. This may be within the framework of projects, in which software is exchanged between partners or is to be developed and transferred as a product. All transmission/transfer possibilities should be documented in advance as far as possible to enable a correct review before the project launch in the best-case scenario.
As software can also be found on mobile phones, laptops, etc., it must also be clarified in advance of any border crossing – e.g. in the case of business trips – whether this software may actually be taken across the border.
The control of specific technical knowledge needed for the manufacture, development or use of a product (technology) is an essential and challenging part of export controls. The provision of controlled technology may enable recipients to manufacture and distribute any number of weapons of mass destruction or armaments. Accordingly, particular care must be taken when considering the area of technology.
Knowledge may be passed on both in the form of technical documentation and by means of services (technical support). It may also be acquired within the country or made available via servers. Critical situations may therefore arise in every conversation or e-mail, the provision of data via a server, the supply of plans, etc. or even the publication of scientific papers.
Every researcher is responsible for identifying the risks and potential hazards of their own research and reacting appropriately. It must be clarified before every transmission/transfer whether it is non-critical, whether licences must be obtained or even whether a ban is in place.
Due to the requirements of foreign trade law and various embargoes, the registration and export control verification of guest researchers at HHU is required. The registration is started by the respective academic host. The link to start the registration and further information can be found here.
The purpose, recipient and country to which the commodity should be exported or transferred, must also be checked during any review. Export controls may even apply in a domestic context. Examples include bans relating to specific individuals or institutions (prohibition of indirect provision) and the transfer of sensitive know-how to foreign nationals (e.g. visiting researchers).
In order to prevent violations of export control law, please contact the individuals stated below in advance for more information.
In order to raise awareness of and clarify any issues in the area of export controls, HHU offers training seminars in digital form for all relevant employees every six months. In an approx. 45-minute session, information is provided on export controls in general and on individual commodities, along with tips on how to handle the corresponding lists of goods and available aids.
The next event will be held as an online seminar on 19.02.2023.
To register for this seminar, please e-mail . The link to the event will be sent to participants by e-mail in good time.