Most CU sponsored research projects are not subject to export controls because they meet the requirements for what is known as the “Fundamental Research Exclusion” (FRE). However, if you answered “Yes” to any of the questions in the “Export Controls Assessment” section of the PSR, then there is a possibility that your project does not qualify for the FRE and will be subject to export controls.

What are Export Controls and How Could They Affect My Research?

Export controls are federal laws that, if applicable to your research, will regulate how you use and share equipment, materials, software, and technology within your lab. They will also limit how you can collaborate with foreign colleagues. Research that is export controlled may need a “technology control plan” TCP to ensure CU Boulder is meeting the requirements to protect against risks related to foreign participation and collaborations, access to physical space and project data, and restrictions on the publication of research results and data. The scope of protection created by a TCP is based on the nature of the underlying research. This protection can range from very basic restrictions on the participation of citizens or permanent residents from a small handful of countries to more intricate data and cybersecurity requirements and controls that limit project access and participation to U.S. citizens.

What Can I Do Now to Address Possible Export Controls Concerns?

The first step in addressing the potential that your proposed research could be export controlled is to seek assistance from the Office of Export Controls (OEC) and the Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG). OEC and OCG may be able to negotiate changes to the language in a final award that will preserve research flexibility; for example, by clarifying with the sponsor that the scope of the research is fundamental science and expressly indicating the intention to publish.

If OEC and OCG believe it is unlikely they will be able to secure language from the sponsor that clearly preserves the FRE or your research will be export controlled for other reasons, now is the time to start preparing. Based on the nature of the technology underlying your research, OEC will work with you to ensure your project will meet all export controls requirements for physical access limitations, data and cyber security, foreign travel, foreign collaborations, etc. The following is a list of actions you can take prior to accepting the award (either independently or in partnership with OEC) to facilitate the rapid and smooth commencement of your research project:

  • Assess physical lab space and determine how areas can be managed or remodeled to ensure secure access.
  • Review prospective team members and determine if any foreign nationals require government authorization in the form of a “deemed export” license before they can begin work on a project. Export licenses can take 3-6 months to obtain (and occasionally longer), so it best to start this process early. Alternatively, their work on the project can be rescoped so that a license is not needed, or they can be removed from the project.
  • Determine data security strategy and secure the use of a computing system that meets the required standards for export controlled technical information.
  • Review your active research portfolio, current collaborations, and any financial or business interests you may have to identify existing conflicts of interest or conflicts that could arise if your proposal is successful. Update your Disclosure of External Professional Activities (DEPA) if necessary and be prepared to disclose potential conflicts to sponsors should your project be awarded.  
  • Participate in training/education on shipping or hand carrying equipment to foreign locations.

Interpreting export regulations can be particularly complex. Please feel free to reach out to the CU Boulder Office of Export Control for compliance assistance.