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Fundamental Research Exclusion



Requirements Related to Export Controls and Sponsored Research

Fundamental Research Exclusion


Export control laws support the national security, foreign policy, anti-terrorism and non-proliferation goals of the United States by imposing restrictions on the transfer of controlled items and information to certain countries and their nationals. These rules can be onerous and complex to navigate. Fortunately, most research activities at Villanova fall under the regulatorily defined "fundamental research exclusion."  

At this time, Villanova University is restricted to conducting research that qualifies for the fundamental research exclusion (FRE). This means that: 

  1. There may be no restrictions other than a limited review with the purpose of ensuring the protection of proprietary information, on the free and open publication of the research results in journals or other technical literature (regardless of whether there is any actual publication). 
  2. There are no sponsor (e.g., an agency of the U.S. Government) restrictions on the nationality of personnel who can be involved in the research.
  3. In most cases, before engaging in contracted activities with the Department of Defense or other military sponsors, Villanova must receive a written determination from the federal contracting officer that Villanova’s scope of work is deemed to be fundamental research. It is imperative that this be considered prior to submission of a grant proposal to limit the possibility of delay of award or non-acceptance of an award.

The following do not qualify for the FRE.  If your research involves any of the below, or if you have questions related to export regulations, please contact the University Compliance Office for assistance and guidance.

  •  Physical shipment of goods
  •  Use of equipment controlled by ITAR
  •  Specific software with access limitations by the provider
  •  Encryption software or technology
  •  Research which is not intended for publication
  •  Some research conducted outside the United States
  •  Travel outside the United States with laptops or other controlled items


Export regulations apply whether the recipient is funded by a grant, contract, or other agreement, and apply whether or not the EAR or ITAR are cited in the award document. If a researcher accepts export-controlled technology or technical data, the researcher is subject to ITAR or EAR regulations.

Guidance on preserving the Fundamental Research Exclusion when engaging in Department of Defense/other military sponsored research. 

Research teams are responsible for reviewing solicitations from the DoD/other military sponsors to identify references to export controls, security restrictions, foreign national restrictions, publication restrictions, Government Furnished Information (GFI) and/or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). 

Reference to these types of restrictions or information in a DoD/other military sponsored proposal requires careful review and consideration prior to applying for the award, as they may undermine efforts to maintain the FRE or indicate that controlled inputs/information are anticipated in the conduct of the project. Prior to award acceptance, categorization of the work as fundamental research, and therefore eligibility for the FRE, is necessary for Villanova to be able accept the sponsored award.  


Two steps are required for Villanova to accept US Department of Defense funding:

  1. At the time of proposal to a US Department of Defense agency or military sponsor, Villanova will include a statement asserting that its scope of work is fundamental research along with its other proposal documents. 
  2. Prior to award acceptance, confirmation from the government contracting officer that Villanova’s scope of work is fundamental research will be required if the award is received. 


Non-adherence to FRE may result in the University not being able to accept such funding or contract.

DOD SBIR/STTR programs may contain additional criteria for review, as Villanova (as a subaward) to the small business prime contractor, will not have direct contact with the DOD contracting officer. To avoid complications at award negotiation the following should be included in the proposal submission to the small business partner:

  • A specific request to the small business partner for the DOD Contracting Office to review Villanova’s Statement of Work separately and determine in writing that the work is Fundamental Research as provided in DFARS 252.204-7000(a)(3).
  • A definitive statement to the small business partner that “The research described in Villanova’s proposal is Fundamental Research as described in National Security Decision Directive 189 (9/21/85).
  • Describe and emphasize the “dual use” purpose(s) of the research. Clearly state in the proposal that the results of the research are intended for both military and civilian applications and provide examples of civilian end uses.

Prior to award acceptance, confirmation from the government contracting officer that Villanova’s scope of work is fundamental research will be required if the award is received.