Imperial College London, one of the best colleges in the world, is ending research partnerships with Chinese state-owned companies by the end of 2022.

The Guardian’s exclusive reports stated that the college is closing two research centers funded by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials (BIAM).

A college representative stated, “All partnerships and collaborations undergo thorough scrutiny and are regularly reviewed, working closely and regularly with the ​appropriate government departments, and in line with our commitments to UK national security.”

The joint ventures have failed to obtain licensing from Britain’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU). The ECJU supervises research collaborations with foreign entities that involve technologies of both civilian and military uses.

The AVIC is a state-owned aerospace and defense conglomerate. Sanctioned by the U.S., it is also China’s top civilian and military aerospace manufacturer. BIAM is an affiliate of AVIC.

The UK has been more closely scrutinizing China’s influence on universities. In June, the British government stipulated that institutions must publicize information about investments they received from foreign actors. A month later, MI5 and the FBI released a joint warning of increased Chinese espionage efforts.

AVIC has contributed more than 6 million pounds ($7.08 million) to the Imperial’s study of innovative aircraft materials. 

With BIAM, the university received 4.5 million pounds ($5.31 million) for research into high-performance batteries, jet engine parts, and impact-resistant aircraft windshields.

The centers stated that the research was to promote civil aerospace technologies. But as the Guardian reported, it is frequently criticized as potential leverage for China’s military capacities.

Since 2018, the ECJU has denied five license requests from Manchester relating to China cooperation and three from the Imperial College.

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