The IULTCS biennial congress took place at the end of May in Cancun, a popular resort in Mexico. The Mexican hosts should be applauded for their excellent hospitality including fully inclusive accommodation, food and drinks at the Presidente Hotel, which also provided a conference room and an award winning beach.

Presentations were wide ranging, ensuring that there was something for everyone. Sadly, only one paper by an Indian presenter was able to be heard because the lack of an Indian embassy in Mexico meant participants travelling to the US and relying on being granted a visa there within a reasonable amount of time. Only one man was prepared to take the chance and had to pay an extra US$100 to ensure his application was fast tracked.

As a result, delegates were able to hear about New halophilic isolates for the treatment of soak liquor which was presented by B Prasadrao. This was an interesting piece of work by Prasadrao, G Sekaran, A Ganeshkumar and S Rajamani.

Dr Tony (A D) Covington presented three papers, two of which were chosen as first and second by his peers in the biennial vote to rank the best papers. The winning topic was New insight into combination organic tanning – condensed plant polyphenols and oxazolidine.

In second place, Crosslinking – what crosslinking? presented studies on the general mechanism of tanning. Covington is a professor at the British School of Leather Technology, University College Northampton, and is also associated with the BLC Leathersellers Research Centre. His research assistant in both instances was L Song.

Another prolific contributor was Dr Vikki (V L) Addy of the BLC Leather Technology Centre who took third place with Hair morphology and factors affecting unhairing which she co-wrote with David (D A) Langridge.

The winning poster was provided by Mariliz Gutterres of the department of chemical engineering, Rio Grande do Sul Federal University, Brazil, on the use of natural gas in tanneries from a cogeneration system.

Three further posters were commended as well presented and offering value: Observation of a high temperature endothermic transition in untanned collagen by Tim Green and A Covington; Use of solar thermal energy in tanneries by Dr Luisa (L F) Cabeza, Spain; and Turbo-charged reed beds by Richard Daniels.

At the end of the congress Juan Manuel Salazar, Colombia, stepped down as president after an unprecedented four-year term which was necessitated when a former vice-president left the industry. He presided over what is possibly the worst time ever for the leather industry worldwide but has achieved a great deal in taking the organisation to a new level of efficiency and accountability. Despite the downturn in the market there is still a great need for technological advancement, particularly in the field of environmental protection, whilst also allowing the industry to remain competitive.

He is succeeded by Jaime Cot, Spain, who presented a paper on adding value with collagenic biomaterials which is based on work being undertaken as part of the RESTORM project (Radically Environmentally Sustainable Tannery Operation by Resource Management). RESTORM is a four-year targeted research programme involving 18 partners and three subcontracted partners from eight European countries. Cot is with the ecotechnologies department, IIQAB – CSIC, Barcelona.

The new vice-president, elected during the congress, is Marc Folashier of CTC France. He is due to take over the presidency in 2005 when the congress is due to be held in Florence, Italy (March). In subsequent years it is planned to hold the congress in the USA (2007), China (2009), Spain (2011) and, possibly, Turkey (2013).

John Williams, who took early retirement recently from the BLC, is the new secretary of the IULTCS. He is combining the roles previously filled by Graham Lampard (treasurer) and David Bailey (secretary).