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EU wants spies on university campuses to fight Chinese tech espionage

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Universities are generally open to talking to spies to learn more about the risks associated with foreign involvement in their scientific research.

LERU, a network of 24 research-focused universities, said in a statement shared with POLITICO that it was “in favor of closer cooperation between universities and security services,” but pointed out that it should happen while respecting data protection rules.

“A top-down legislative approach must be avoided in this way,” the statement also read.

Some universities have a head start and are already liaising with their respective intelligence services.

“We have very frequent consultation with them,” Luc Sels, rector of the University of Leuven, one of Europe’s leading research universities, told POLITICO in April when asked about how it assessed the risk of foreign interference and the subsequent involvement of security services.

Other countries, like the Netherlands, have set up a one-stop-shop for universities and research institutes with questions about securing their work.

Thursday’s proposal suggests several other measures that EU governments can take to secure academic research, such as simulating incidents or conducting other resiliency testing in the research and innovation sector.

This article has been updated.

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