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Institute for Plant Biotechnology – 21st anniversary celebrations
Author: C van der Vyver
Published: 15/10/2019

During the recess in September, the Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB) celebrated its 21st anniversary on Friday 13 September. In the week leading up to the big bash on Friday afternoon, the IPB's international collaborators and industry partners visited the Institute for feedback and future planning sessions. At the main event, stakeholders – in the form of founding members, alumni staff and students, industry partners, local and international collaborators and service providers – met with current staff and students at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). The celebrations started with a meet-and-greet in a big reunion of old friends and colleagues. Surprised comments on never-seen-before grey hair – or no hair – extra wrinkles and “What have you been doing?" and “Where are you now based?" were heard from numerous excited conversations taking placed in the STIAS foyer.

The formal part of the afternoon's celebrations started with a welcome address by Prof Danie Brink, the Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences. He was followed by Prof Frikkie Botha, under whose directorship the IPB was established in 1998 and who flew all the way from Australia to attend the reunion, recalling the historic aim and mission of the IPB. He gave an insightful view on how industry can benefit from long-term funding and collaboration with the academic world, of which the IPB and the sugar cane industry are an outstanding example. He also recalled the negotiations with leadership at Stellenbosch University and the initial partnership agreement with the South African Sugar Association, which was fundamental in the establishment of the IPB. Prof James Lloyd then entertained the audience with a humoristic comparison of world events, emphasising, of course since being British, England's sports achievements , but also IPB milestones and its changing face over the past 21 years, giving statistical data on students trained, research published, patents developed etc. The talks ended with an address by Mr Willem Botes, the Head of the Department of Genetics, in which the IPB operates as an independent unit, on future challenges and perspectives.

The event concluded with an early cocktail dinner, during which the attendees had more opportunity to socialise. Good old days were remembered, gossip was exchanged, friendships were renewed, partnerships were cemented, appreciation was aired for work done and future collaborations were discussed. Overall, the function was considered a huge success and the general opinion voiced by the attendees was that the IPB can be proud of all its achievements over the past 21 years.

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