Business

Top businessman and agri-food expert honoured by Queen's

Declan Billington (middle) with Professor Nigel Scollan (right), director of the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's,and Chris Elliott OBE, professor of food safety at IGFS

A LEADING member of the north's business community has received an honorary professorship from Queen's University.

Declan Billington, chief executive of John Thompson and Sons animal-feed manufacturers and vice-chair of the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) has had the title ‘Professor of Practice' conferred on him.

The honour acknowledges not only a successful career – Mr Billington leads the largest multi-species feed mill in Europe – but a commitment to driving the local economy, for which he received an MBE last year.

A former chair of CBI Northern Ireland, he has long been a champion of innovation and high standards of food-safety in the local agri-food industry.

This has culminated in representing the NI food industry at Brexit negotiations over the past three years – up to and including meetings with UK Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnston – where he has sought to protect the interests of local farmers, food producers and retailers.

He has also worked to protect the all-island economy, as a member of organisations such as the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (IBEC).

A chartered accountant by background, Mr Billington has been key in promoting a closer relationship between scientific research and the food industry, helping create pathways along the whole of the food chain, from fundamental science through to retail.

In 2015 he helped establish the Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre, which links academic researchers from Queen's and Ulster University, CAFRE and AFBI with the north's top food and drink companies to work together on research projects.

A Queen's graduate, Mr Billington has always maintained close links with his alma mater, particularly through the establishment of its Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), on whose Industrial Advisory Board he sits.

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