Controlled Goods + Export Controls

Each year UBC undertakes approximately $70 million in industry-sponsored research across more than 1,000 projects. While UBC welcomes the growth of industry-sponsored research, changes in the global political landscape have necessitated that we pay attention to issues surrounding export control and sanctions, both in Canada and in other jurisdictions around the world.

Exporting involves transfer of goods, services and technology from Canada to a foreign country regardless of the means of delivery. This can include: 

  • Shipment of goods (e.g., lab materials, samples and equipment);
  • Electronic transfer of information (e.g., research results, publication of applied research, software); and 
  • Provision of consulting services (e.g., training, instructing and advising).

The university and our faculty must monitor the transfer of research outputs to foreign entities that could conflict with Canadian export control regulations. If any potential concerns arise, the researcher and their partner(s) should consult with the University-Industry Liaison  to identify potential export control violations and further engage the Government of Canada for assistance in resolving the issue.


Export controls help prevent the export of certain goods and technology to foreign entities, or individuals, for reasons of national interest and trade obligations. Export controls in Canada are governed by the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). Failure to adhere to Canada's export control regime can result in prosecution by the Government of Canada, with possible fines and/or imprisonment.

While many categories of items subject to export controls are obvious, such as those with military and nuclear applications, others may be less intuitive. Export controls can impact goods that are tangible (e.g. electronic circuits) or intangible (e.g. circuit designs). Providing certain kinds of technical data and/or technical assistance to entities outside Canada can also be subject to export control.

Researchers should consult Global Affairs Canada's Export Control Guide for up-to-date information on Canada's approach to export controls. 


Most countries have their own export control laws specific to their national interests. Although we work in Canada, researchers must be mindful of other countries’ export control laws when employing or partnering with citizens of other countries, or contracting with companies or entities within boundaries. Foreign partners increasingly request that the university adheres to another country’s export control laws, which the university cannot do, as doing so would conflict with Canadian law.

Special care and attention must be paid to avoid infringing foreign export control law through the re-export of goods. For example, a foreign country has listed highly machined ceramic bearings as an item under limited export control, meaning it can be imported to Canada, but no other country. If a UBC researcher sources such ceramic bearings from a company in said country incorporates them into a novel engine assembly, and then transfers the assembled engine to a third country under a sponsored research agreement, both the university and the researcher could be subject to the application of extraterritorial law leading to possible sanctions and/or extradition. This topic is especially sensitive when exporting to entities in Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria, and China.


Exporting controlled goods

If an item is subject to Canadian export control, it does not necessarily mean that it cannot be exported to a foreign entity whatsoever. A Canadian broker, acting on behalf of the foreign partner, can apply to the Government of Canada for an export permit specific to the good or technology on the Export Control List. The responsibility to prepare and apply for an export permit must be undertaken by the broker/partner, and cannot be completed by the university or researcher. 

Infractions against Canadian export control regulations can potentially occur when the university grants rights to foreign partners for technology developed under sponsored research agreements. The university would be in violation of export control regulations if it assigned or licensed intellectual property arising from sponsored research that is described on the Export Control List.

When the university is aware that the research outputs are likely to be listed on the Canadian Export Control List, it can insist that the partner obtain an export permit before the transfer of technology, or it can release all results and findings from the sponsored research to the public (a public disclosure) without a grant of rights. 

This is typically done by means of a peer-reviewed academic publication, and if done in advance of patenting, ensures that those discoveries are gifted to the public for use by the global community.

Working with controlled goods belonging to a third party

UBC's Controlled Goods Program Designated Official

J.P. Heale, Managing Director, Innovation UBC

Controlled goods are defined by the Government of Canada as “goods, including components and technology (for example, blueprints and technical specifications in paper or electronic format), with strategic significance or national security implications, regardless of where they are manufactured”. These goods are administered by the Controlled Goods Program and are defined in the Defence Production Act. This guide will help you identify whether specific goods are controlled. 

If a UBC researcher wishes to work with a Controlled Good belonging to a third party, the university must obtain approval from the Government of Canada’s Public Services and Procurement branch. Applications will require a description of the controlled good, a list of all individuals who will have access to the controlled good, and a security plan.

To obtain approval, please contact UBC’s Controlled Goods Program Designated Official. The Designated Official will apply for required permits on behalf of the university. All individuals involved in research with the Controlled Good will be required to complete a security check. Failure to adhere to the Government of Canada’s protocols can result in substantial fines and/or imprisonment.

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