Scottish rail partnership to tackle global food shortage caused by Ukraine conflict


UNIVERSITY of the West of Scotland (UWS) has partnered with a Ukrainian university on a project to tackle the food shortage caused by the ongoing conflict. 

The £190,000 project – between UWS and the Ukrainian State University of Railway Transport (UkrSURT) – will focus on addressing rail freight transport challenges, which is contributing to a global food shortage affecting billions of people worldwide.

Ukraine is among world’s leading food suppliers and is critically important for the movement of goods to ports and further afield, but rail freight transport has been significantly affected by the war.

Both universities will collaborate to develop degradation resistant railway sleepers, as well as optimised transport vehicle and logistics designs, to improve rail freight transportation, alleviating food supply issues. 

The announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of the twinning initiative, with the project funded by the UK-Ukraine Research and Innovation twinning grants scheme, and involves UKRI’s Research England and Universities UK.

Professor Milan Radosavljevic, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Engagement) at UWS, said: “Rail freight transport is critical for the economic development and welfare of Ukraine, which has been significantly affected by the conflict – about 70 percent of cargo transportation in Ukraine is carried out by railway.

“We are delighted to be supporting the Ukrainian State University of Railway Transport through a collaborative research and development project. It is a fantastic partnership due to the specialist nature and applied research of the twinning partners, which involves our highly regarded School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences.

“The main aim of the partnership is to help the University achieve academic continuity and capacity strengthening through research and innovation, in the critical area of rail freight transportation.”

The research project is the latest initiative to come from the University’s partnership with UkrSURT, which it announced in January. The partnership is part of a national twinning scheme led by Universities UK / Universities Scotland and supported by Cormack Consultancy Group and Research England, to help Ukrainian universities and researchers.

The initiative, launched a year ago, supports UK and Ukrainian universities to share resources in a gesture of solidarity, for the benefit of Ukrainian institutions, colleagues and students.

In the early stages of the twinning arrangements, UWS provided resources to help supply power to the UkrSURT campus during outages via generators, mini power banks for students, and USB lighting. 

Marcus Ross, Vice-Principal (Planning and Recruitment) at UWS, said: “The project establishes an entirely new research and innovation collaboration between UWS and UkrSURT, aiming to contribute to improvement of rail freight capabilities. The project therefore goes significantly beyond the war-time operational and business continuity support that has already been established to date.

“We are thrilled to be involved with UkrSURT now in a research and development capacity and look forward to seeing the positive impact of our partnership in addressing some of the challenges caused by the conflict.” 

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International said: “Today marks a monumental occasion as we reflect on and celebrate the incredible achievements of the twinning partnerships over the past year. It’s amazing to see the bonds that UK and Ukrainian institutions have made with each other through the scheme. These vital relationships have helped to strengthen ties between our two systems and highlights the UK’s continued support for Ukraine through the current conflict.”

Over its long history, Ukrainian State University of Railway Transport (UkrSURT) has trained about 85,000 specialists for railway transport, transport construction and other sectors of the economy. The University has strong ties with railway transport enterprises, and its graduates head regional railways, logistics centres, power supply services, and construction companies throughout Ukraine.

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