Dr. Tom Dempster landed in Cape Town, South Africa on January 13, 2014 to attend and give the keynote speech at the 28th Congress of the Phycological Society of Southern Africa in Melkbosstrand, South Africa (January 13-17, 2014).
The University of the Western Cape hosted the 28th Congress as a learning and networking opportunity for algae researchers from all over the world. Dempster spoke about the progress and accomplishments of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3), and the Sustainable Algal Biofuels Consortium (SABC). The keynote talk emphasized efforts to harmonize microalgae production and biomass analyses methods. Making connections with international organizations and expanding networking opportunities was a primary goal for everyone attending the conference.
“We have never had connections with South Africa before,” said Dempster. “We are always trying to expand our network and find organizations that are willing to collaborate with AzCATI/ATP3 to advance the industry.”
Dempster explained that the South African Universities are mainly focused on the traditional research and analysis of algae and have not really taken significant steps towards commercialization, something that may be discussed in detail further down the road. “I was pleasantly surprised by how eager researchers from several universities were to collaborate with us (AZCATI and ATP3). Their primary research interests have traditionally focused on macroalgae. The South African researchers understand that our focus is with microalgae and are anxious to explore commercial applications, as well as join the testbed network.”
Dempster believes his attendance at the 28th Congress will help expand partnerships for ATP3, “I am pretty optimistic that there are at least 5 opportunities for collaboration.” He hinted at the possibilities of working with South Africa again and mentioned that one of the five universities is in Poland.
As a result of the 28th Congress, Dempster is currently serving as an external examiner on a PhD committee for a candidate at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg studying lipid compositions of microalgae in South African waters. He has also been invited to participate as a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa.