We are delighted that Baroness Ruth Deech has agreed to open the symposium. Although Baroness Deech comes from a legal background and is currently Chair of the Bar Standards Board, she has had a long-standing interest in stem cell biology as former Head of the HFEA until 2002. Likewise, we are delighted to be able to announce that Professor Austin Smith, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge will deliver this year’s Keynote Lecture on the subject of ‘Design principles of pluripotency’. Professor Smith has many accolades to his name, the most recent of which is the 2010 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine for his seminal contribution to understanding the mechanisms governing the renewal or differentiation of stem cells. In addition, we have a packed programme of short talks from many of the laboratories associated with the OSCI.