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22 August 2023

Written by Jan de Beer on behalf of Cement & Concrete SA

YCRETS 2023, the second biennial Young Concrete Researchers, Engineers and Technologists Symposium organised by Cement & Concrete SA (CCSA), has been lauded as “remarkable” and “rewarding”.

CCSA, which has committed itself to presenting YCRETS biennially, staged the YCRETS 2023 event at, and in collaboration with, the University of Stellenbosch (US) from July 12 to 14 this year. The inaugural YCRETS 2021 was held online during lockdown restrictions in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Twenty-two research papers were presented by young individuals at YCRETS 2023, described by CCSA as “an investment in the future of young researchers to ensure succession planning”.  In addition, keynote addresses were presented by Prof Elsabé Kearsley, of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria (UP); and Emeritus Prof Leslie Petrik, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The symposium’s overall theme of “circularity” emerged strongly in all YCRETS 2023 papers. The theme emphasised the quest among young researchers to find innovative ways to minimise the impact of cement and concrete on the environment, while still meeting the demands for sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

Jurie Adendorff, PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering from UP, who presented a paper at the symposium, commented: “Attending YCRETS 2023 was a remarkable experience, and I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to share my research with industry experts. The valuable feedback and expansion of networking opportunities will substantially help to advance knowledge in our field. I extend my sincere appreciation to Cement and Concrete SA for fostering collaboration among like-minded professionals towards building a future together.”

Another paper presenter, Selicia Pillay of the African engineering practice, Zutari, said YCRETS 2023 had provided an invaluable platform for young individuals to meet experienced leaders in the field of concrete research and improve their communication skills. “It was so rewarding to present my research to such respected academics and professionals of the industry.” Pillay added.

Clint Wicomb, GM Sales & Marketing at PPC Cement, the main sponsors for the event, commented: “The symposium was well attended which shows there is still a huge demand for concrete and innovation and the work being done by the scholars in their respective research topics.  The SA industry is losing talent to other countries so it is comforting to see that there is young concrete talent in the making coming through our tertiary institutions.”

CCSA, the custodians of YCRETS, worked closely with a committee comprising academic staff of Stellenbosch University to host the successful YCRETS 2023, and ensured that all papers were reviewed by a scientific committee and complied with the requirements of a conference for authoritative research.

Dr Wibke de Villiers, of the Department of Civil Engineering at University of Stellenbosch, who was on the YCRETS 2023 organising committee, summarised her experience: “Some of the impacts of YCRETS 2023 are immediately tangible such as the research shared and ideas exchanged – but the most exciting impact is the connections created that will forge into invaluable relationships in years to come. YCRETS provides our young researchers with a key opportunity to lay the foundations of their professional networks in the cement and concrete industry.”

CCSA will in due course announce details for YCRETS 2025 which will be presented in collaboration with the University of Pretoria.

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