Minister Dijkgraaf told a critical House of Representatives that “national security takes precedence over scientific freedom”. He admitted that we in the Netherlands have been too naive in recent years towards countries like China, which come here to collect our knowledge. But the universities and the ministry both now recognize the risks and are actively working on them.
Director Jan Swillens of the Military Intelligence Service (MIVD) warned more than a week ago against large-scale collaborations between Dutch universities and Chinese military universities. “As a result, high-quality Dutch knowledge finds its way into Chinese weaponry and that’s worrying,” he told RTL Nieuws.
Minister Dijkgraaf is now having a list of technical studies drawn up which the security services AIVD, MIVD and NCTV consider to be high risk. This can relate to space and aerospace engineering, quantum computers, and materials with military application. In addition to a list of fields of study, there may also be a list of Chinese and foreign military universities that are not allowed to cooperate. These lists should be ready by the end of the year.
Before a collaboration with a foreign university, Dutch universities must register this collaboration with the Knowledge Security Office† This counter is made up of a group of government security experts and checks for unwanted knowledge transfer and hidden influence. This office can give the university urgent advice to end the collaboration if there is a high risk associated with the collaboration.
It is not possible to ban collaboration, but Minister Dijkgraaf says he is confident enough that universities will adopt a recommendation from the Knowledge Security Office. A ban is only possible if there is cooperation with countries under UN sanctions, such as North Korea and Iran.
Universities should also review all existing collaborations with foreign universities. Where there is a risky partnership in which sensitive knowledge disappears overseas, it must be stopped.
The Minister will set up an external audit committee which will verify whether the universities have correctly identified all the collaborations at risk and have effectively put an end to them.
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