Prof Andrew Leitch proposes a toast to Prof Ben Zeelie and the InnoVenton Team on the occasion of their 10th Anniversary Celebrations.

InnoVenton, the NMMU Institute for Chemical Technology and Downstream Chemicals Technology Station recently celebrated their 10th anniversary within the institution.

InnoVenton’s origins stem from the amalgamation in 2005, of three units of the PE Tecknikon, namely: Technikon Catalysis Research Unit (PETCRU), ChemQuest (semi-commercial analytical laboratory of the Port Elizabeth Technikon’s Chemistry Department), and the Materials Resource Centre.

“At InnoVenton we develop technologies and commercialize them for everyday use. We provide solutions to our country’s needs.” says Ben Zeelie, founding member of InnoVenton.

One of the innovative projects led by InnoVenton include: the microalgae-to-energy project which combines microalgae and coal to make fuel. The institute has also championed the creation of two new academic programmes at NMMU – a BSc Honours degree in Formulation Science as well the National Diploma in Chemical Processing.

An emotional Zeelie echoed how they experienced many ups and downs on their 10 year journey. “The key to our success has been our determination. We will not take ‘it cannot be done’.” says Zeelie. He also mentioned how InnoVenton was born out of a simple and naïve idea which has turned into the innovative institute that it is today.

“Had we known what we were getting ourselves into when we started this, I doubt we would have done it. We were naïve, and as a result it has been a continuous battle.”

Andrew Leitch, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic at NMMU, a scientist and one of the founding members of InnoVenton says: “At InnoVenton we do things differently. We aim to change people’s lives by creating jobs and creating hope. We are nationally recognized as a project of the country, which means we must be doing something right at this university.”

He ended by saying that a university should always strive towards the unknown and encourages his students to be free thinkers and to challenge the status quo.