New UANI Investigation Reveals Iran’s IRGC Using Swedish Universities to Procure Research and Technology for its Military Programs

New research by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has revealed for the first time that:

  • A strategic agreement – unknown to Swedish authorities and which UANI is revealing today – provides the IRGC with “maximum use” of all collaborations between Iranian universities and Swedish universities to procure research and technology for the Iranian regime’s military programs.   
  • Eight Swedish universities have formed partnerships with Iranian universities that the IRGC – the Iranian regime’s paramilitary organization – is using to procure research and technology to advance its hard and soft power capabilities and that could be used against Sweden, especially given its status as a NATO member state. 
  • The academic fields on which all eight Swedish universities are collaborating with Iranian universities are on topics specifically listed as “main science and technology priorities for defense and security” for the regime and IRGC in the strategic agreement.
  • Despite new UANI evidence and the IRGC’s extensive surveillance of Iranian universities and control over students’ lives, Lund University maintains a joint master’s program with the University of Tehran, paid for in part by Erasmus+ funding.

A new investigation by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) can, for the first time, reveal the IRGC and other armed elements of the Iranian regime are using partnerships between eight leading Swedish universities and Iranian universities to procure research and technology to advance the Islamic Republic’s military programs, not least to further develop the IRGC’s hard and soft power capabilities.

Partnerships discovered by UANI include those between:

· Lund University and three Iranian universities: University of Tehran, Malayer University, and the University of Torbat Heydarieh (UTH);
· Lulea University, Mid Sweden University, and the University of Guilan;
· Malmö University and Chabahar Maritime University;
· the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Ilam University;
· the University of Boras and Chabahar Maritime University;
· Uppsala University and Golestan University; and
· Linnaeus University and University of Tehran’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Co-signed by the IRGC’s commander-in-chief and Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (among others), the strategic agreement uncovered by UANI – entitled “The Comprehensive Act on Science and Technology in the Defense and Security Field of the Islamic Republic of Iran” – was unveiled by the Khamenei-run Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution (SCCR) – the highest authority over educational affairs – in February 2021. It has since been implemented across all universities in Iran.  

Since its implementation, all Iranian universities are required to transfer the intellectual property and rights of all research and academic materials to the IRGC and other armed elements of the regime. In the agreement, this policy is described as “maximum use of all national academic [and] research capacities” to acquire “soft, semi-soft and hard defense and security sciences and technologies.” These are to be acquired from both “national” and “international” university departments – transforming international university partnerships into a means “for achieving regime objectives.”

The agreement further states that this research will be used for “hostility with enemies in the path of achieving the scientific defense goals of the Islamic Revolution,” meaning that it may be used against Sweden, especially given its status as a NATO member-state.

The SCCR agreement explicitly states the regime’s “main science and technology priorities for defense and security,” which include: “Automated and unmanned equipment (drones),” “aerospace propulsion systems,” “artificial intelligence,” “advanced warfare software and military science and technology,” “advanced electronics,” “energy,” “cyberelectronics,”
“guidance and navigation,” “logistics and vehicles,” “infrastructure,” “energy,” “chemistry,” “geology,” “computer processing,” “environmental science,” “economic security,” “food and agriculture,” “environmental science,” “physical sciences,” and “biology and health.”

The eight Swedish university collaborations with Iranian universities are precisely in academic fields that are listed in the strategic agreement as the IRGC’s “main science and technology priorities for defense and security”:

  • Malmö University and the Chabahar Maritime University (“guidance and navigation,” “logistics and vehicles,” and “infrastructure”)
  • University of Borås and Babol Noshirvani University of Technology (lists “process engineering” and “chemical engineering” – both of which are dual use technologies)
  • Lund University’s partnership agreements with Malayer University, UTH, and the University of Tehran (“geology,” “computer processing,” and “environmental science”)
  • Luleå University of Technology and Guilan University (“economic security,” “food and agriculture,” “energy,” and “environmental science”)
  • Mid Sweden University and Guilan University (“economic security,” food and agriculture,” “energy,” and “environmental science”)
  • Uppsala University and Golestan University (“geology,” “physical sciences,” and “environmental science”)
  • Linnaeus University and University of Tehran (“biology and health,” “food and agriculture,” and “environmental science”)
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Ilam University (“energy,” “food and agriculture,” and “environmental science.”)

Additionally, all student exchanges or joint conferences facilitated by these partnerships are used to further these aims, in accordance with the strategic agreement. The strategic agreement explicitly states that all “professors, researchers, [and] students” affiliated with Iranian universities are used to “build capabilities and create capabilities in responding to defense needs.”

In addition to the above, Lund University maintains a joint master’s program with the University of Tehran. The Swedish university also has partnerships with two further Iranian universities, Malayer University and UTH, paid for in part by Erasmus+ funding.

This strategic agreement should not be considered dormant or aspirational. In June 2023, it was revealed that at least 11 British universities, including Imperial College and Cambridge, were involved in long-standing academic collaborations with Iranian universities relating to dual-use technology. The implication of this strategic agreement is that it confirms that the IRGC has “maximum use” of, and access to, all Swedish University collaborations with Iranian universities. Thus, any intellectual property that is discussed, shared, or conducted in collaboration with representatives of Iranian universities should be considered forfeited to the IRGC.

UANI’s investigation comes at a time where Sweden’s security intelligence service, Säkerhetspolisen, has repeatedly warned of Tehran’s large-scale industrial espionage operations and campaigns of intimidation targeting minority groups on Swedish soil. Swedish security services have repeatedly neutralised threats from IRGC agents including a recent assassination plot against Aron Verständig, chair of the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities. Partnerships with academic entities and other ostensibly soft-power institutions serve as entry points for the IRGC, facilitating its hard-power objectives – including surveillance, radicalization efforts, assassination, and other acts of terror. 

There is also a considerable risk of Swedish universities providing access to Iranian universities—and unwittingly the IRGC—to technology which has military applications, at a time when the Iranian regime is arming Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

UANI has written to all Swedish universities involved, outlining its concerns and calling on them to immediately sever any ties with these Iranian universities. UANI has also informed the Swedish government of these links and requested they take action to fully investigate these partnerships and ensure that they are immediately terminated.

On Tuesday 7 May 2024 at 13.00 CET, UANI, the European Jewish Association (EJA), and Europe Israel Public Affairs, in collaboration with Swedish MP Alireza Akhondi, Swedish MP Magnus Berntsson, and MEP David Lega, will host an event on Iran’s Infiltration in Sweden in first chamber room at Riksdag, Parliament of Sweden to outline its findings.

UANI’s letters to Swedish universities can be found here.

Members of the media who wish to view the event in Stockholm on May 7 virtually can contact [email protected] for a Zoom link.