New science link up between Northern Ireland and Kurdistan


The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland last night signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Mosul while participating on the Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to Kurdistan.

The MoU will proactively facilitate collaboration and student exchanges between the university, one of the leading higher education and research centres in Iraq, and AFBI in areas such as food sciences.

AFBI provides expert diagnostic and analytical testing services to the Northern Ireland agri-food industry and clients abroad.

The agreement was announced by Dr Margaret Patterson, AFBI’s Head of Food Microbiology, and welcomed by Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Trade Director, who said: “This is a further outcome of the close relationship that now exists between Northern Ireland and Kurdistan, now among the most dynamic regions in the Middle East and one which is extremely keen to source advice, support and products from us.

“AFBI has worked closely with Invest NI in developing these relationships and has already assisted the Kurdistan authorities to take the necessary steps to upgrade its food safety systems to established European standards.

“The MoU builds on the links AFBI has established and will provide opportunities for further scientific collaboration in both short and long terms. In addition, it will help raise the profile further of Northern Ireland in Kurdistan in key research areas in food and other industries.”

Dr Patterson said: “Our contact with the University of Mosul has been facilitated by a member of staff there who worked with us as a student. Dr Thamer Khalil, Food Science Department, College of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Mosul in Iraq was asked by the university’s President to act as liaison in setting up the MoU between Mosul and AFBI.

“This all arose following Thamer’s visit to AFBI. He carried out the research element for his PhD at AFBI under the supervision of myself and Dr Ann Fearon.

“Dr Fearon was also a member of the trade mission to Kurdistan in October 2011 and built on her previous role as supervisor for the member of staff of University of Mosul to facilitate the development of this link. She has generated bespoke training courses for students from this region. The university is particularly keen to expand its knowledge of and expertise in scientific support services for Kurdistan’s immensely important agri-food industry.

“Agri-food, of course, is Northern Ireland’s biggest industry and AFBI’s main focus in terms of the support we provide in animal health and welfare, as well as food processing, food science, environment, fisheries and economics.

“We see the MoU as the first stage in a relationship that could bring positive benefits to both AFBI and the University of Mosul. Initially, it will bring students from the university to work alongside our expert teams in knowledge transfer activities that will benefit Kurdistan as it seeks to develop its agri-food industry.”

The University of Mosul was established in 1967 and has centres of excellence in disciplines such as computing, environmental and water resources, sensors and agriculture.

AFBI is among eight companies and organisations on the current Invest NI mission to Kurdistan, which is based in Erbil, the region’s capital. It is the latest in a series of business exchanges between Northern Ireland and Kurdistan. These exchanges have included regular trade missions and visits to Northern Ireland by business and political leaders from Kurdistan.