Where we’ve come from; where we’re heading

The Opening Ceremony of the 25-year-old Glass Performance Days conference (GPD) that took place in Tampere’s TähtiAreena on June 28 was filled with music, fireworks and high-energy presentations to support the spirit that makes GPD so unique. Combining tradition with a look into the future, an impressive line-up of speakers viewed the glass industry from multiple angles. Each speaker’s eye-opening presentation compared the last 25 years with where we’re headed in the next 25 years. More than 650 international specialists, newcomers, mentors and investors gathered to kick off the world’s number one glass industry event.

The Glaston-organised GPD celebrated its silver anniversary with a theme of “All Eyes on Glass” in the same year that Finland is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Over the years, the event has become known to the entire glass industry as a place to introduce new technology, distribute information, meet, share and network to move the glass industry ahead. Since the first event in 1992, GPD has had over 1,000 international speakers, 14,000 delegates, 3,000 presentations and 10,000 pages of technical papers.

Keynote speaker Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland, urged for the need of a step change in the glass industry. He compared the similarities of transformational change in government and business, highlighting the need for contextual and conceptual balance. He used Nokia as an example of a business that created its own transformational success story by predicting the future ahead of everyone else. As a good case for government, Aho mentioned China. No one would have believed that the future-oriented concept chosen in 1978 would allow China to be the key challenger to the US today. He concluded saying: “A person is young as long as he or she has more dreams than memories,” and encouraged all businesses to look to the future to enjoy success.

According to the father of GPD, Jorma Vitkala, Chairman of the Organizing Committee, two new programs were introduced this year to drive the industry forward. The Step-Change Program supports collaboration with startups to trigger faster development of the industry through new technologies. The Mentor and Ambassador Program, or the “Old Foxes Club”, aims to pass knowledge to the next generation to ensure talent for sustainable growth.

Arto Metsänen, CEO and President of Glaston, challenged the audience by asking if we want to be part of the big transformation. There are millions of ideas out there in the glass industry – but how can we choose the ones that make our lives better and are commercially viable? We must all work together to reach this goal. We must be willing to take risks.

James Carpenter, Founder of James Carpenter Design Associates Inc., gave a summary of landmark buildings built with glass over the last 25 years. His presentation entitled “Light in the Public Realm” showed how the building’s glass skin can become a part of our lives, capturing and reflecting the environment. “There are so many opportunities to use digital information in buildings to enable a much richer experience for us all to enjoy,” he advised.

As the “dessert of the Opening Ceremony”, as he dubbed it himself, Michael Robinsson, CEO and Design Director, ED Design srl., looked at glass from another perspective: adding augmented reality. He discussed how ultra-thin glass curtain walls can be used for cars, even when steering wheels and gasoline will be prohibited. “Cars can become sexy again because they will have intelligent glass, not normal glass,” he underlines. And the same technology can be applied in homes or airplanes to shape our surrounding reality using digital technology. “Even though this may seem to be an ambitious goal, we can sell multiple times more glass than what we’re selling today by moving this direction,” he declared.

Other fascinating speakers included Bernard Savaëte, Founder of BJS Différences, who gave his own “Old Fox” view of the past 25 years with numerous expectations for macro trends, glass products and new markets for the next 25 years. Jingong Pan of CBMC Research Institute in China also presented some of the remarkable achievements they have been working on, especially when it comes to energy savings and emissions reduction using glass.

As a special surprise, the first-ever Jorma Vitkala Award was given to none other than – Jorma Vitkala. Guests from all over the world sent in video messages filled with gratitude to the man who started this all and had the energy to keep innovating GPD to become the premier event in the glass industry a quarter of a century later.

GPD 2017 Opening ceremony