Ukraine universities strike up research partnerships with University of Leicester

The University of Leicester has bolstered its links with two Ukrainian universities after securing funding to collaborate on research projects involving supply chains, aerospace, bioengineering, and artificial intelligence.

Leicester signed a twinning agreement in December with Kremenchuk Mykhailo Ostrohradskyi National University (KrNU), and this will be followed by a second, in April, with Poltava State Agrarian University (PSAU).

The research projects are the next step in the partnerships, which have seen Leicester host Ukraine students and researchers, provide clothing and equipment, training, English classes for staff and students and collaborate in law classes.

The project between Leicester and KrNU will develop a five-year roadmap of aerospace, bioengineering, and artificial intelligence twinned research.

It will help KrNU preserve its knowledge base during the war and be well-placed to quickly reap future peace dividends with Leicester as strategic partner. The project will increase technology readiness levels in existing areas of joint expertise. A new generation of PhD researchers trained by the collaboration will help rebuild Ukraine as a resilient, prosperous, sustainable, democratic country.

Professor Mykhaylo Zagirnyak, rector of KrNU: said: “I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the such strong support we feel from people in the UK. We would especially like to thank the administrative and academic staff at Leicester for the manifestation of solidarity and the readiness and desire to support our students and staff.

“We really appreciate the University’s readiness to assist our academic staff and students, including the extension of existing mobilities, involving our university in mutual scientific projects, and other possibilities. It is the best and most efficient support for us during this hard time of war.”

The PSAU collaboration, meanwhile, will see researchers from both institutions explore the traceability in food supply chains for improved global and national competitiveness. It is hoped the study will help to improve Ukraine’s war-damaged food supply chain’s ability to recover and thrive.

Professor Iuliia Samoilyk, from PSAU, said: “The project aims to identify the main drivers of food insecurity and vulnerability in different regions of the world, and to assess the resilience of food systems to external shocks and disruptions. These questions are very important under the condition of war in Ukraine. A lot of countries around the world felt problems related to the blockade of Ukrainian ports.”

Geoff Green, Registrar and Secretary at the University of Leicester, said: “We have been twinned with Kremenchuk and Poltava universities since summer last year, and from the beginning we have wanted to build partnerships which provided support both during the immediate conflict, but also for the longer term. 

“The funding we have received from UKRI to support project explorations in the use of AI and aerospace technologies with KrNU and in food supply chain management with PSAU, will help to build the foundations for long term, meaningful collaboration which will have positive impact across research, education and the recovery of Ukraine after the conflict. 

“The resilience and positivity of the colleagues we are working with at KrNU and PSAU, under such challenging circumstances, is inspiring, and I am proud that we are able to work with them on some projects which can give in some way, hope for the future.”

The research projects are funded by more than £220,000 from Research England, via the Universities UK International’s (UUKi) UK-Ukraine R&I twinning grants scheme.

Wednesday 29 March will make a year since the Universities UK-Cormack Consultancy Group’s UK-Ukraine Twinning Scheme was established.

One hundred UK institutions are now twinned with a Ukrainian institution. The main motivation behind twinning is to retain the integrity of the Ukrainian Higher Education system, reduce ‘brain drain’, and support universities in Ukraine to come out of the crisis with increased resources, skills, and robust international experience.

On Wednesday a reception in the House of Lords will bring together university vice-chancellors, parliamentarians, donors, and beneficiaries of the scheme to mark the first anniversary of the twinning scheme. Geoff Green will represent Leicester at the event.

Read about Ukrainian researcher Inesa Kostenko’s new role in Leicester and the account of four students who are spending time at the East Midlands University.