The U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday announced a new effort aimed at working with universities to protect potentially sensitive research products from theft by foreign agents.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the so-called Academic Outreach Initiative was announced by Matthew S. Axelrod, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Applications.
“The challenges of enriching our academic research environment and protecting our controlled information from inappropriate foreign acquisitions are significant,” Axelrod said in a ready-to-deliver comment at the conference. “That’s why I’m announcing a new Export Enforcement Initiative today to help academic research institutions protect themselves from these threats.”
By working more closely with universities that study the potential national security impact, the federal government will “empower colleges and universities to” prevent unauthorized exports, including controlled technology disclosures, and to make informed decisions about their future and ongoing partnerships with foreign universities and companies, “Axelrod said. Said in remarks prepared for delivery at the conference.
The initiative has four main components:
- Identify universities and research institutions that are at the highest risk because they conduct research for the Department of Defense, have relationships with limited foreign universities, or conduct research on sensitive technologies;
- Appointing “outreach agents” for those organizations to help them prevent unauthorized exports of sensitive information;
- American University “to provide briefings to foreign research partners to inform them about the potential risks of working with risky entities; and
- Provide training to priority research institutes on potential threats.
A report from a government liability office this month states that companies accused of blocking sensitive technology data exports will benefit from better information on which universities are most at risk of exposure.