During 2005 the newly formed Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University undertook a review of all operational entities of the former Port Elizabeth Technikon and the University of Port Elizabeth with the view to formalize activities within such entities. Three units of the former Port Elizabeth Technikon, namely the Port Elizabeth Technikon Catalysis Research Unit (PETCRU), ChemQuest (semi-commercial analytical laboratory of the Port Elizabeth Technikon’s Chemistry Department), and the Materials Resource Centre, decided to amalgamate to form one operating entity called InnoVenton. This entity was formerly registered by the NMMU as “InnoVenton: NMMU Institute for Chemical Technology”.

At the start of the 2006 academic year, InnoVenton was awarded a “Technology Station” by the Department of Science and Technology’s Tshumisano program and the management committee of InnoVenton decided to incorporate the activities of the Technology Station into InnoVenton to form InnoVenton: NMMU Institute for Chemical Technology and Downstream Chemicals Technology Station (abbreviated as InnoVenton/DCTS). As of July 2017 the university was renamed the Nelson Mandela University.

InnoVenton: Institute for Chemical Technology is a formally registered Research Institute at the Nelson Mandela University, whose principle research focus is in Product and Process Development. The Institute strives to be self sustaining through income generated from services to industry, income from technology transfer projects and royalties from patents.

The Institute incorporates the Downstream Chemicals Technology Station, a Government funded initiative to make available high level research, technological services and training, to technology based Small and Medium Enterprises, and South African Industry as a whole.


Mission, Vision and Values

Mission, vision and values


Prof Ben Zeelie, Founding Researcher and Innovator- A Tribute


Prof Ben Zeelie dedicated his life to developing his team of staff and students, using their strengths, stretching their boundaries, challenging their horizons and broadening their perspectives. This, to take responsibility for each other and try and see the other person’s point of view. He believed in making Science practical and accessible to the public.

On a more formal note, he obtained his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Port Elizabeth and paid it forward by acting as promoter/co-promoter for 63 masters and doctorate students, this excludes those he examined and consulted for. Refereed Publications he wrote totalled 27, that we know of and 19 Patents, excluding those on Coal fine Purification, Microalgae Cultivation, Process equipment and Coalgae which were either granted, filed or registered between 2010 and 2015.

Some of the coursed he developed included:

  • Research Methodology for Chemists” - for B Tech/Honours and new master’s degree students.

  • “Laboratory Process Development” – course for Master’s degree students.

  • “Good Research Practice” – an informal course for Master’s and Doctoral students in good research practices.

  • “M Tech: Chemistry (Product and Process Development) - a structured Master’s degree as a “Technical” alternative to the traditional MBA.

  • “BSc Honours in formulation Science” – a multi-disciplinary program aimed at new product development.

  • “Diploma in Chemical Process Technology” – a program for the training of process technicians and process operators.


    Government services played a pivotal role in his career, he was a leader in establishing new initiatives in South Africa, a:

  • Member of task team for the preparation of the proposal for the establishment of the Automotive Components Technology Station (Tshumisano Technology Stations Programme).

  • Member of the NACI Task Team – Chemical Industry.

  • Leader of the task team for the proposal to establish the South African Chemical Technology Incubator in Port Elisabeth (Former GODISA Incubator Programmes).

  • Chairperson of the Board of Directors – South Africa Chemical Technology Incubator.

  • Author of the proposal to establish the Downstream Chemicals Technology Station (Tshumisano Technology Stations Programme).

  • Member of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap Team (2013).


    Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurial contributions Prof Zeelie was instrumental in or a founder of, can be listed as follows:

  • Established “ChemQuest”, the commercial analytical service arm of the department of chemistry, 1992. (EX-PET Unit – Now operating as InnoVenton Analytical).

  • “EnviroQuest”, Spin-off company formed from ChemQuest activities, 1998 (CC).

  • “Techno-Lab Services”, Spin-off company formed from ChemQuest activities, 2001. (CC).

  • Project leader for the establishment of “CHEMIN”, The South African Chemical Technology Incubator, 2002. (S21 Company).

  • Established the Chemical Technology Centre (CTC) at PET for the scale-up and commercialisation of chemical production processes, 2004 (now incorporated into the Institute of Chemical Technology).

  • Team member in the establishment of “PET Innovations”, the commercial arm for the exploitation of PE Technikon held IP, 2003. (Pty Company).

  • Led task team for the establishment of the “Office of Innovation Support and Technology Transfer” at the NMMU (2006)

  • Insect repellent formulation: Product development, manufacturing and commercialisation. Innovation Fund Project: Project number: T50007.

  • Rose preservation process, AfricaEverose, now Floralush Pty LTD (2007)

  • Established InnoVenton: NMMU Institute for Chemical Technology (2005)

  • Microalgae to Energy DST Project (2017)

    His services to the South African Chemical and Allied industries are too numerous to mention, and range from proposals, technical solutions for problems, characterizations, various specialist studies to tailor made courses for particular applications and skills development.


    He was always strides ahead of us, we had to try to keep up with his vision, he had a bigger picture in mind and was working towards that up to his last day with us.

    What I think Ben would want from all of you (us) - "do the best you can". By doing the best we can, we will continue to drive InnoVenton along the road to success and in doing so, will help fulfil Ben's dream, whilst at the same time honouring his memory.

    Also this quote from Nelson Mandela is very apt in respect of Ben:

    “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Ben certainly made a big difference to a number of lives.

    “Ben, was no ordinary professor.  InnoVenton is the culmination of a life’s work and no ordinary life at that.  It’s nothing less than the extraordinary achievement of a remarkable man!” – Prof Jack Fletcher


    Dr Melissa Gouws

    Technology Station Manager (2017)