New international partnership aims to help nurture Morocco's scientific talent.

  • 05
  • MAR
  • 2019

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) in Morocco, along with Rothamsted Research and Cranfield University from the UK, has launched a new endeavour to help develop the next generation of Moroccan scientists and engineers.

The initial phase of the partnership will focus on the delivery of seven agricultural research projects and the creation of a Centre for Doctoral Training, and will be supported by OCP Group, one of the largest exporters of phosphate fertilisers in the world.

Speaking after the signing ceremony in Casablanca, Rothamsted's Chief Executive and Director, Professor Achim Dobermann, said the collaboration capitalised on the strengths of all three organisations. 

“The development of sustainable agriculture across Morocco, and Africa as a whole, is vital to the continent’s food security and economic growth. The challenges are immense, but by nurturing the talent and enthusiasm of young scientists, I am confident that there can be a bright future both for Africa’s famers and its environment.

"By combining the cutting-edge expertise of Rothamsted and Cranfield, with the drive and vison of UM6P, we can play a major role in delivering this and we are excited about contributing our unique expertise.”

Yesterday's announcement comes on the back of growing relations between the UK and Morocco which aims to strengthen collaboration in fields of education, research and innovation.

Up to 20 early career researchers in the agricultural sector will be supported both in Morocco and in the UK through the partnership. 

The initial batch of seven research projects that the partnership will conduct are:

·     Exploitation of beneficial root-associated bacteria in grain cereal-based cropping systems

·     New soil and plant diagnostics tools for better fertilizer recommendations

·     Technical and practical innovations to reduce soil and water losses by improving soil physical properties

·     Developing innovative remote sensing/automated crop phenotyping methods for African agriculture

·     Bioproducts for African Agriculture

·     Dynamic Landscapes

·     Novel fertilizer formulations and management for African agriculture

Located in the “Mohammed VI Green City” in Benguerir, near Marrakech, UM6P is a hub of education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and is aspiring to become a solid bridge of knowledge between Morocco, Africa and the world.

Hicham El Habti, Secretary General of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, said “OCP, through its R&D programme and in close co-operation with the Mohamed VI Polytechnic University, is developing fertilizers that are specific to the needs of African soils and crops, as well as locally-appropriate service models for African farmers to have reliable, affordable access to these inputs and related products.

"This vital partnership with Rothamsted and Cranfield University will support the acceleration of this strategy to help African farmers become not only more productive, but also more prosperous.”

Cranfield University was awarded its fifth Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2017 in recognition of its global impact with large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources. Cranfield University registered its first Moroccan agricultural student in 1966.

Professor Leon A. Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University, said: “This partnership brings together the very best in UK plant and soil science with the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, an institution with the very highest of entrepreneurial and scientific ambitions for Morocco and wider Africa.

"As a university that prides itself on our international outlook, we are delighted to be bringing Cranfield’s globally-recognised expertise to support the development of African agricultural research.”


About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.