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Excellence Park : University Research Initiatives



International Relations & Diplomacy
A delegation from the Diplomatic Academy of London (DAL), University of Westminster would be in Mauritius from the 16-21 January 2006, headed by Mr Bennis, the course leader. Mr Bennis has kindly agreed to give one or two lectures on one or more of the following topics:

• Globalisation in the 21st Century: Focus on Africa
• The State in a Changing System
• The Concept of Knowledge in Diplomacy
• The Powerful tools of Diplomacy and Foreign Policy: Public Diplomacy,
• Media Diplomacy and Media-Broker Diplomacy.
• An insight into the Formulation of Foreign Policy
• The Implications of the New US Foreign Policy on The ‘Greater Middle East’

Dr Ancharaz, the Programme Coordinator of the MSc International Trade and Economic Diplomacy/Business, would be coordinating the visit.

Sub theme: Observatoire Geopolitique de l’ Ocean Indien (OGOI)

Sub Theme Leaders: Dr Vijaya Teelock / Mr S Osman

This project is closely being worked out with the Mauritius Research Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Cooperation, StraConsult, etc.

The OGOI has already met three times.

There have been three extensive brainstorming sessions on the Observatoire géopolitique de l'océan Indien (OGOI) project since October 2005. The Convenor was Dr. Vijaya Teelock, Head of the History and Political Science Department at the University of Mauritius (UOM). The objectives and activities of the observatory have been defined and agreed on. The statutes of OGOI have been drafted, discussed and will soon been finalized before being sent to the UOM.

There would be two main components at the level of OGOI: (1) An Academic/Research Committee; (2) A Think Tank. Regular partcipants have been the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Mauritius Research Council, CEDREFI, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, the Government Information Service, the Ministry of Agro-Industry, the National Library, the Comité Social Chagossiens, Messrs. Vijay Makhan, Amédée Darga, etc.

The soft launch of OGOI will take place on Friday 9 December 2005 at the UOM through the organisation of an Executive Seminar on Geopolitics and International Trade where Mr. Darga, Director of StraConsult and Chairman of Enterprise Mauritius, will talk about "The Geopolitics of Textile and the Clothing Industry". There will be also a presentation on "A definition of Geopolitics and the relevance of geopolitical analyses in today's world" by Prof. Michel Korinman, Professor of Geopolitics at Sorbonne-Paris 4 University.

The OGOI committee is currently working on:

1. The statutes of the OGOI

2. The visit of Prof. Michel Korinman, Professor of Geopolitics (Sorbonne-Paris 4 University), to Mauritius. Activities include:
  • The presentation of the latest edition of Outre-terre, a French journal of geopolitics, on Africa by Prof. Korinman;
  • The holding of 2 seminars with international speakers as well as local speakers such as Messrs. Minister Dulloo and Darga on the future of Sugar as well as on Mauritius’s role in Africa.

3. The running of an Executive Programme addressed to the political class, NGOs, the Diplomatic Corps, officers of the public sector and executives of the private organisations. The programme would comprise of a keynote address by Prof. Korinman (introduction to geopolitics and the relevance of geopolitical analyses in today’s world) and subsequent topics, which are to be agreed on.

4. In line with policy developing partnerships with other international institutions, the Institute of African Futures (IFA) is keen to participate in OGOI.

The next event by OGOI will most probably be a similar seminar in January 2006 on the Sugar issue."

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Public Policy
Theme Leader/ Convener: Assoc Prof S K Sobhee

Two meetings have been held already and in the first meeting the themes/ sub themes that have been identified include Poverty Alleviation, Human Resource Development, Funding of Higher Education, Tourism and Environment, Corporate Governance, Financial Sector Policy.

However, in the second meeting held, it was decided that given that members of this MCE do come from several disciplines, it would be essential to start up a research topic that would involve a multidisciplinary approach. In this context, the theme 'Poverty Alleviation' was identified and it was decided that colleagues would be involve in drafting a research proposal aiming at analysing poverty or poverty-related issues from various perspectives.

It is also important to note that there may be another theme that would emerge from this MCE on 'Human Resource Development'. This will also require a multi-disciplinary approach in which certain colleagues are already working on. More information would be available during the next meeting.

Sub theme: Poverty Alleviation

Sub theme Leaders: Dr S Bunwaree / Dr R Kasenally

The Institute of Social Development and Peace (ISDP) has been launched on the 17 October 2005 with the project: Lifting Girls out of Poverty. The mentors for the 12 girls from Camp Levieux have been identified and a series of activities including Christmas celebrations, initiation to drawing, sketching, embroidery, IT, music etc will be organised for these girls.

The other project under ISDP will be the pairing off of UoM with one of the ZEP Schools in Mauritius so that students (across Faculties) and staff (academic and non academic) of the University can be given the opportunity to work with children in deprived zones and make a difference by a turning a ‘disadvantaged school’ into a ‘miracle/ innovative school’.

In this context, in December, the ISDP will launch the University Volunteers’ Award (UVA) for the staff and students of the University to encourage pairing our young people at the University with even younger ones at a ‘Zone Education Prioritaire’ (ZEP) school.

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Environment, Energy and Water
Theme Leader: Prof H C S Rughooputh

Secretary: Dr R Boojhawon

Sub theme: Water

Sub theme Leader: Dr V Proag

Research projects identified:

• Re-use of wastewater: In view of ever increasing water demand, the recycling of wastewater should be one of the solutions to be examined.
• Advanced technology for water treatment: Water pollution is on the increase and might need new ways (ozonation, granular activated carbon, etc) for treatment.
• Membrane technology for water treatment: High tech may be very expensive. Is this a cheaper way?
• Cost effectiveness of Irrigation: There are many reasons for considering that sugar cane might not be the CROP for Mauritius. Should we grow sugar cane for ethanol production only, should we diversify into vegetables for export/tourism? Sugar prices are going down. All these are factors, which affect cost effectiveness of irrigation.
• Impact of Climate change: Has the climate really changed over the last 100 years or is it just part of a global long-term trend/cycle, which is going to happen anyway? Does this affect water resources?
• Water Desalination: This may be a source of water to be considered for Mauritius, either as a perennial source or in cases of drought. What are the alternatives available?
• Water Rights: Owners of land adjoining rivers have what is called water rights – i.e. they can draw water (sometimes substantial volumes) from the river for uses such as irrigation. Of course, there is some abuse, and this does affect downstream users.

The launching of an essay competition on the theme water for Lower six students (Start: Jan 2006 / End: March 2006) is also being worked out.

Sub Theme: Environment

Sub theme leader: Dr R Mohee

Proposed research topics:
• Existing cogeneration practices; energy and energy analysis
• Energy from other cane products such as tops and leaves and related environmental impacts
• Energy production from municipal solid wastes including sludge
a) Incineration
b) Anaerobic digestion
• Biomass conversion
a) Fermentation process for ethanol production
b) Gasification for methanol and hydrogen production
• Biodiesel production – assessment of opportunities and constraints
• LCA of electrical energy generation

The Environment subtheme aims at participating in a workshop, which will be organized by the Ministry of Local Government on composting and waste issues in February 2006.

Sub theme: Energy Management

Sub theme Leader: Mr J Gukhool

The idea of a 2 half-day's seminar in January 2006 on Energy is being looked into to pave the way for a bigger national or even international Conference later during the year. The seminar has been planned for the 3rd week of January 2006 (dates to be confirmed soon) with targeted stakeholders from Ministries, NGOs and Industry.

Research projects identified:

• Hybrid cars have been constructed which will use hydrogen as fuel in the near future. Efforts should gear towards how to harvest hydrogen (from compost, waves or wind) for energy.

• Wind energy more favorable during winter (e.g see case of Reunion Island)

• Wave energy (Riambel site)

• Bio-classification of waste

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Textile and Manufacturing
Theme Leaders: Dr S Rosunee / Dr D K Hureeram

A workshop/brainstorming session entitled “Textile and Apparel Industry: Meeting the Challenges of a Changing Industry” was organised on 29 August 2005.

About 60 resource persons from the public and private sector attended the workshop. A report was subsequently prepared and sent to all the participants. The report includes the main findings from the sessions followed by recommendations for action to be taken up by the relevant authorities.

A policy paper is also being prepared for submission to Cabinet/Minister of Industry.

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Theme Leader: Dr Aman Maulloo

Secretary: Dr P Gonpot

A few meetings have already been held. Since there has been a significant amount of studies conducted by local and foreign experts on road transport in Mauritius, it was found most appropriate to generate a database of available information to date.

Dr B. K. Baguant gave a presentation on the work conducted by Halcrow Fox, which is the Integrated National Transport Strategy Study for Mauritius.

The available documents are now being reviewed to generate a single report to be the reference handbook for research in the road transport sector in Mauritius.

A tentative list of possible research areas has also been proposed in each of the following fields: Economic, physical planning, traffic management, social aspects, financial, and engineering studies.

A series of workshops will be organised in the near future for each sector with appropriate stakeholders to prioritise the research fields and also to generate research proposals.

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Innovation, Science & Technology

Sub theme: ICT Business Incubator


Sub theme leader: Dr Roshan Ramessur

Two meetings have already been held under this sub theme and an ICT Business Incubator Project Outline is actually on the agenda.

The underlying aim behind the setting-up of the MCE -ICT Business Incubator at the University is mainly to give opportunities to students to develop their abilities as future entrepreneurs. The ICT Business Incubator on campus would provide start up initiatives for both students and academics from various disciplines to develop multidisciplinary ICT business related projects. An operational university model of an ICT Business Incubator will be adopted to suit the appropriate level of technological and management support presently available on campus. Collaboration with IFE and the NCB Incubator funded at a later stage in setting up the ICT Business Incubator on campus will be sought. Modules/Workshops based on ICT business concepts and entrepreneurship for students and academics will also be offered for them to identify opportunities and to develop a business portfolio in various fields and assist MCE incubation cells within IT/Engineering, energy, tourism, agro industry, textile and manufacturing, transport, medical, finance, public policy, SMEs, environment/ocean etc based on government policy.

In line with the above, Dr G Lemoine, Director, from “L’Institut de la Francophonie de l’Entrepreneuriat” will be animating a brainstorming session on “ Incubateurs pour les projets innovants a Maurice- Creation D’Entreprise: Mode d’Emploi” on 29 November 2005.

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Entrepreneurship & SMEs
Theme Leader: Mr I Vencatachellum

The first meeting was held on 24 October 2005 and the project on “vacuum-packaging technology” was on the agenda. Collaborative meetings have been held with other MCEs (e.g. Agri-business, Innovation, Science and Technology, etc.) to identify integrated projects. Some suggestions and future efforts towards fostering an entrepreneurial culture and the development of SMEs have been noted:

a. Setting up of a UOM SME-start up incubator
b. Building business plan templates
c. Developing training programmes for future entrepreneurs

Further meetings will be held to investigate the opportunities for research work in entrepreneurship and SMEs.

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Financial Services
Theme Leader: Mr S Fowdar

Secretary: Mr S Dowlutteea

A workshop on “Financial delinquency and Money Laundering” was organized from 26-28 October 2005. The key resource person was Prof Duteil, Director of “Groupe de recherché Europeen sur la Delinquance Financiere et Organisee (DELFICO)”.

A roundtable was also organized on the 31st October 2005 with Prof Duteuil, high profile CEOs and academia of the UoM.

• After the round table on Financial delinquency in Mauritius, the MCE Financial Services had sent a 'mise au point' to Le Matinal which had published an article saying that Mauritius was the third preferred destination for money laundering. The 'mise au point' proved the article to be wrong.

• It was decided to create an electronic platform, via VCILT, for professionals in the financial sector. This platform will further increase the credibility of the MCE in the Financial Sector as well as give people from the sector to voice their opinion regarding issues pertaining to the financial sector.

• By January, an MoU will be proposed between UoM and Universite d'Aix Marseille III to offer a postgraduate programme in Financial Delinquency and Money Laundering.

• A policy paper on how to better combat financial delinquency in Mauritius will also be proposed in January.

• Two research themes have been sent by the MCE Financial Services for funding at the MRC. The themes are financial literacy in Mauritius and the taxation system in Mauritius.

• A new strategy will also be proposed in January/February to make the MCE Financial Services financially self-sustaining.

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Exploitation and Conservation of Indigenous Renewable Resources

Theme Leader: Assoc Prof Dhanjay Jhurry


Researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Biosciences at the University of Mauritius have developed independently over the past 10 years research themes in the broad area of indigenous renewable resources – land and marine. While chemists have been investigating the elaboration of high value-added materials/chemicals from sugars and marine seaweeds and algae, biologists have been focusing on the phytochemical and biological screening and conservation of endemic and medicinal plants. A brief on the research achievements of each group is given at 1, 2 & 3 below:

1. Development of materials/chemicals based on indigenous land and marine renewable resources.

Research in this area is motivated by a desire to address basic problems (synthetic, structural and mechanistic aspects of polymer chemistry) as well as issues of a more developmental nature. Our efforts have been targeted towards the development of value-added materials taking into account available local land and marine resources such as sugars and their derivatives (lactic acid, amino acids) and algae and seaweeds. The objectives of the research theme aim at helping Mauritius to reduce its dependency on petroleum-based products through the enhanced exploitation of renewable feedstocks. The research work undertaken can be placed under the following headings:

(1) Controlled synthesis of biodegradable/bioresorbable polyesters (polylactides, polydioxanone, polycaprolactone) and polypeptides by ring-opening polymerisation of the cyclic monomers (lactides, dioxanone, caprolactone, N-carboxyanhydrides) using novel coordination or anionic initiators.

(2) Polymer-sucrochemistry: synthesis and characterization of polymers containing sugar moieties as side groups (polyvinylsaccharides) or in the main chain (polyurethanes and polyethers).

(3) Biopolymer extraction and derivatization: (i) Synthesis and characterization of environmentally-friendly materials derived from cellulose. (ii) Extraction and characterization of biopolymers (agarose and carrageenans) from red algae (eucheuma, hypnea) and seaweeds (gracilaria).

A few highlights of research achievements:

Working in a team, we have developed:

• tailored polylactides for commodity and high-tech applications. Local expertise is now available in this area and should be beneficial to the industrial production of these polymers in Mauritius.
• polyethers and polyvinylsugars based on sucrose using novel, facile and eco-friendly synthetic methods. The polyvinylsugars have proved to be very efficient in colour removal of effluent textile wastewater.
• copolypeptides for use as wound dressings.
• an extraction process at laboratory scale (100 g) to isolate carrageenans and agarose from algae and seaweeds around Mauritius.

5 relevant Publications
1. D. Jhurry, A. Bhaw-Luximon, T. Mardamootoo, A. Ramajooloo
Biopolymers from the mauritian marine environment
Macromolecular Symposia, in press (2005)

2. Goury V, Jhurry D, Bhaw-Luximon A, Novak B, Belleney J.
Synthesis and characterization of random and block copolypeptides derived from ?-Methylglutamate and Leucine N-Carboxyanhydrides
BioMacromolecules 6(4), 1987-1991 (2005)

3. Bhaw-Luximon A, Jhurry D, Belleney J, Goury V.
Polymerization of ?-methylglutamateNCA using Al-Schiff’s base complexes as initiators.
Macromolecules (2003), Vol 36, Issue 4, 977-982

4. Narain R, Jhurry D.
Synthesis and polymerization of novel vinylgluconamides
Polymer International (2002) 51, 85

5. Narain R, Jhurry D, Wulff G.
Synthesis and characterization of polymers based on 4-vinylphenylglucitol
European Polymer Journal (2002) 38, 273

2 Biodiversity and bioprospection

The natural biodiversity of Mauritius is currently subject of serious concern and has become one important priority, both in terms of conservation and bioprospection. There is no well-defined national programme oriented towards biodiversity bioprospection and in this regards we are currently working in collaboration with a number of institutions on the propagation and phytochemical and biological screening of endemic plant species and the analysis of food based plants.

The main development objectives are to inventorize our biodiversity and maintain its sustainable and equitable development, to promote capacity building for taxonomy, extraction, analyses and biological activity assays and to strengthen traditional knowledge systems. This would lead to market link objectives such as the screening for bioactive extracts or molecules, establishing lead molecules and extracts for selected therapeutic targets, genetic engineering for economic size matching, scaling-up for cost effectivity and eventually benefit sharing.

In our line of study concerning the production of biologically active secondary metabolites, we have initiated and oriented our research activities towards both the in vivo and in vitro production of prophylactic polyphenolic compounds from native and introduced traditional plants. In this respect for the past few years we have concentrated our efforts on the establishment of a specialised framework with appropriate infrastructure for free-radical biochemistry and antioxidant research on Mauritian medicinal and endemic plant species. We are currently publishing data on the phytochemical composition, chemotaxonomic surveys and antioxidant potential of introduced species, endemic species, traditionally used plants and food based plants. We have already initiated work on more than 75 plant species using a wide range of assaying systems.

The use of cell cultures as a biotechnological tool for conservation and the production of bioactive natural products is an important component of our research activity. In this line of study we have initiated a number of projects aimed to enhance the production of prophylactic antioxidants.

Recently we have completed a Mauritius Research Council funded food research project where we have evaluated the polyphenolic composition, the vitamin contents and the antioxidant capacity of our local fruits, vegetables and teas. Besides providing a base for an epidemiological evaluation of the potential antioxidant effects of polyphenols and vitamins, the collective data are being used to determine the Mauritian daily intake of dietary polyphenolics.

Established links and Ongoing collaboration :

Professor Okezie Aruoma

The Food and Research Centre, Dept of applied Science, London South Bank University, 103 Bourough Road, London SEI OAA, UK

Professor Kyung-Sun Kang

Laboratory of stem cell and Tumor Biology, Dept of Veterinary Public Health, College of veterinary Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, KoreaProfessor Alan Crozier
Plant Products and Human Nutrition Group, Bower Building, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK.

Professeur Francis Trotin

Faculté des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques, 3 Rue du Professeur Laguesse-BP 83, 59006 Lille, CEDEX

Dr Shinya Toyokuni

Associate professor, Department of Pathology and Biology of Diseases, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan

Recent selected publications :

1. Luximon-Ramma, T. Bahorun, A. Crozier, V. Zbarsky, K.K. Datla, D.T. Dexter and O.I. Aruoma. Assessment of the total phenol, proanthocyanidin, flavonoid, Catechin and gallic acid contents and antioxidant activities of Mauritian commercial black teas: Important contributor to their medicinal properties. Food Research International, 2005 38 , 357-367 V.S.

2. M.A. Soobrattee, V.S. Neergheen, A.Luximon-Ramma, O.I. Aruoma and T. Bahorun, Phenolics as potential antioxidant therapeutic agents : Mechanisms and actions. Mutation Research/fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, 2005, 579, 200-213

3. V.S. Neergheen, T. Bahorun, M.A Soobrattee, and O.I. Aruoma. Characterisation of phenolic contents of selected Mauritian endemic plants from the Rubiaceae and Myrtaceae families and assessment of their antioxidant activities Journal of Plant Physiology, 2005, in press

4. Neergheen, M.A Soobrattee, T. Bahorun and O.I. Aruoma. Phenol contents and antioxidant activities of some Mauritian endemic plants from the Ebenaceae and Myrtaceae Families, In Biodiversity towards drug Development. 2005 1-15 ISBN : 99903/73/16/7

5. T. Bahorun, A. Luximon-Ramma, A. Crozier and O.I. Aruoma, Total phenol, flavonoid, proanthocyanidin, vitamin C levels and antioxidant activities of commonly consumed Mauritian vegetables. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2004, 84: 1553-1561.

6. S.Toyokuni, T. Tanaka, W. Kawaguchi, N.R Lai Fang, M. Ozeki, S. Akatsuka, H. Hiai, O.I. Aruoma and T. Bahorun. Effects of the phenolic contents of Mauritian Endemic plant extracts on promoter activities of antioxidant enzymes. Free Radical Research. 2003, 37 (11): 1215-1224.

7. O I. Aruoma, T. Bahorun and L-J Jen, Neuroprotection by bioactive components in medicinal and food plant extracts. Mutation Research. 2003, 544: 203-215.

8. T. Bahorun, E. Aumjaud, H. Ramphul, M. Rycha, A. Luximon-Ramma, F. Trotin and O.I. Aruoma. Phenolic constituents and antioxidant capacities of Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) callus extracts. Nahrung Food. 2003, 3 : 191-198

9. A. Luximon-Ramma, T. Bahorun and A. Crozier. Antioxidant actions, phenolic and vitamin C composition of common Mauritian exotic fruits. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2003, 83: 496-502

3 Conservation

The native forest of Mauritius is now a mere fraction of what it was when the first settlers arrived some 400 years ago. Indeed less than 2% of the luxuriant forest that once covered the island now survives as small pockets in an ocean of sugar cane and an advancing wave of concrete. Unless a sustainable effort is urgently made to develop a conservation and restoration strategy, there will be no future for the native plant species and this will be an incalculable loss indeed.

Historical records have shown that the Diospyros (ebony trees) were the dominant species of the Mauritian indigenous forest. It is not known how many Diospyros species existed before the large scale exploitation of these species for the quality of their timber. To date 11 species prevail, some of which are represented by only a few individuals. We are currently examining their biogeography, phylogeny and reproductive biology with a view to understand their survival and colonisation patterns. Information gathered from these studies will be invaluable for proper reforestation strategies.

Phylogenetic analysis based on morphology has enabled us to establish a hypothesis of the evolution and adaptive radiation of these species in Mauritius. We are now finalising DNA analysis which will enable us to compare DNA based with morphology based phylogenies. This comparison will not only enhance our understanding of island biology but will also lay down the ground work for a more global study of most if not all the endemic plant species. Our findings will also be an important contribution to the world wide effort to determine the historical biogeography of well established plant families and provide a data bank for restoration work in the fragile island ecosystems.

Relevant publications:

1. Olesen JM, Eskildsen LI, Venkatasamy S: Invasion of pollination networks on oceanic islands: Importance of invader complexes and endemic super generalists. Journal of Diversity and Distribution. 2002;8:181-192.

2. Venkatasamy S, Khittoo G, Nowbuth P, Vencatasamy DR: Phylogenetic relationships among the Diospyros (Ebenaceae) species endemic to the Mascarene Islands based on morphology. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 2005. In press.

3. Nowbuth P, Khittoo G, Bahorun T, Venkatasamy S: Assessing genetic diversity of some Anthurium andraeanum Hort. cut-flower cultivars using RAPD Markers. African Journal of Biotechnology. 2005; 4:1189-1194.

4. Venkatasamy S, Khittoo G, Vencatasamy DR: Leaky dioecy in Diospyros egrettarum (Ebenaceae) endemic to the island of Mauritius. Submitted to Plant Ecology.

In support of the University’s recent initiative to foster multi-disciplinary research in order to address more efficiently national priority needs, researchers from both Departments have naturally pooled together and have identified as common theme the “Exploitation and Conservation of indigenous renewable resources”.

Researchers involved

Assoc Prof Theeshan Bahorun (co-team leader)
Assoc Prof Dhanjay Jhurry (co-team leader)
Dr. Govindranathsing Khittoo
Dr. Archana Bhaw-Luximon
Dr. Shailendra Oree
Dr. Shobha Jawaheer
Mrs S.Venkatasamy, Farm Manager

Supporting MPhil/PhD students: 11

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Achievements (August – Dec 2005)

One of the priority issues addressed by the Centre is the problem faced by the Sugar Industry and the country at large as the future of that industry is seriously threatened. Thus, together with Prof Matthias Rehahn from Darmstadt Technical University, a strategy has been elaborated as a partial solution to the Sugar Industry’s problems. This concerns the development of Green Bio-Refineries in Mauritius. This is an integrated facility where biomass is converted to fuels and chemicals. Biomass refers in a first instance to sugar and its by-products (molasses, bagasse, cellulose, hemi-cellulose).

A presentation of the GBR concept to all stakeholders was given by Prof Rehahn and Dr. Jhurry on Dec 5, 2005. This was a joint initiative of UoM and the Ministry of Agro-Industries and Fisheries. The presentation was followed by very interesting discussions and proposals such as to take stock of current and future market trends and to develop R&D that is market-driven.

As a next step, the Centre now proposes to group various stakeholders to transform this proposal into concrete actions. The Centre will also be looking into funds for starting the project with local and international agencies.

Prof I Fagoonee

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