Harper Adams bond with Odessa aids research in war zone

Prof Frank Vriesekoop from Harper Adams University could not have imagined his international research on gluten-free food would extend to a war zone, but a new link between Shropshire and Odessa is the latest in a huge programme to help Ukraine continue its innovation and research.

Harper Adams University has paired with the Odessa National University of Technology (ONUT), as part of a UK scheme to help Ukraine’s universities continue to operate, by offering remote teaching, hosting staff and students on campuses, providing equipment and supporting research.

Driven by Universities UK and the Cormack Consultancy Group, 79 UK institutions have already twinned with a Ukrainian counterpart.

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Prof Vriesekoop researches food biotechnology and says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is hindering the work of academic staff in the country, who need opportunities to continue their research.

The conflict has thrown a new light on his research into the availability and pricing of gluten-free foods, by working with a researcher at Odessa National Academy of Food Technology, based at ONUT.

“With my colleague at ONUT we extended that notion – and we are essentially looking at the availability and pricing of gluten-free foods in an active conflict zone,” said Prof Vriesekoop.

Harper Adams staff are also judging student work in the ONUT “Black Sea Science” competition and the university is exploring how ONUT staff can take part in an agri-tech conference that will be held at Harper Adams in September.

The university said it will share teaching resources and online short courses, with a hope of then bringing some ONUT staff and students to England this year.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said: “We are delighted that the government is putting its weight behind this extraordinary scheme.

“These are significant and long-term commitments, and the solidarity shown between universities in the UK and Ukraine has been remarkable and inspiring to witness.”