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28 September 2020

New research examines safer knowledge transfer in research settings

A new catalogue of case studies in the field export control helps universities and researchers pursue academic exchange without jeopardising international non-proliferation and national security efforts.

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These case studies outline the challenges universities and research institutes face as hubs for technology development.

The Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London has prepared a catalogue of fourteen case studies on Intangible Transfers of Technology (ITT), emanating from academia and research institutes across the globe. Technology can be tangible, taking the form of blueprints, diagrams, or technical and training manuals. Intangible technology includes emails, teaching/conversations or other electronically stored information.

This catalogue follows a 2016 report that examines the utility of ITT in managing the spread of proliferation-relevant technologies. It comes at a time of heightened government concerns about theft of technology from universities and research institutes by non-aligned states seeking to enhance their military capabilities and by proliferator states pursuing weapons of mass destruction programmes.

Collectively, these case studies outline the challenges universities and research institutes face as hubs for technology development, and the need for them to have comprehensive and functioning procedures in place for controlling the technologies being researched and developed within their institutions.

  • The first section focuses on case studies where the institution was implicated in the case. They consider the actions that the institutions themselves took to respond to export control concerns and mention cooperation with relevant authorities to resolve those concerns and work within existing regulations.
  • The second section focuses on case studies involving individual researchers, who have either challenged or violated export control laws. These emphasise the need for awareness-raising and training for researchers on export control and sanctions regulations. They show the legal consequences a researcher may face if caught purposefully disregarding or breaching the law.

Through dialogue with governments, universities and research institutes may be able to seek alternatives to export control challenges with the aim of ensuring that researchers continue to benefit from legitimate academic exchange without prejudicing international non-proliferation and national security efforts.

In this story

Dr Ross Peel

Research Fellow


Senior Associate