Tomorrowland 2017 - © Tomorrowland

How do you hire a global star for your conference?

Interview with Dietrich Van Der Weken, General Manager at G-STIC


Flanders is the ideal location for your conference in Circular Economy.  In the summer of 2022, the northern region of Belgium was even the  backdrop for a very remarkable organisation: the Love Tomorrow  Conference, organised by Tomorrowland, the largest dance festival in  the world, which takes place every year in Flanders.

The first edition, dedicated to climate innovation, was an instant hit. With 3,750 partici-pants, the conference was filled to the brim. What’s more, a big name emerged as a keynote speaker: none other than Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the bestseller “Sapiens”.

Dietrich Van Der Weken

Dietrich Van Der Weken, G-STIC

The most influential conference in the world?

One of the driving forces behind the Love Tomorrow Conference is the Flemish knowledge centre VITO. This prime research and technology organisation on clean-tech and sustainable development is also the driving force behind G-STIC, the global sustainable technology and innovation community that wants to accelerate market-ready integrated technological solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals.

G-STIC’s annual conference is one of the most influential in the world. The 2023 session will include António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. On this global stage, Circular Economy receives a lot of attention. This is no coincidence, says Dietrich Van Der Weken, General Manager of G-STIC.

“Circular economy is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and in different ways. People often think only of the classic waste paradigm, reusing raw materials as much as possible. But circular economy also has many spillovers to other sustainability compartments, such as climate. For example, we can realize a huge CO2 gain by using materials sustainably. Even for rare resources - used in renewable energy applications such as wind turbines and batteries - it is vital to create a closed loop. So we are facing a crucial transition for the climate, which will also have a major impact on the competitiveness of our industry.”

How do you get a world star at your conference?

G-STIC’s annual conference is one of the most influential in the world. The 2023 program features for example António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. How does Dietrich Van der Weken manage to bring such a big name to his conference?

“A good network is very important. Our organization has very good relations with UN headquarters in New York. Through personal contacts you can appeal to the right people.

The message of the conference itself also plays a role, because important people don’t just respond to any question. We especially emphasize the importance of technology and innovation in the context of sustainable development. We do this through a consortium of independent research institutions, which spread knowledge about interesting concepts and solutions from a scientifically based position. That independence is important, because within the United Nations you quickly end up in a geopolitical story. This is how we have built up a nice track record and credibility, which is why we manage to bring top profiles to our conferences.”

Circular economy has many spillovers into other sustainability spheres.

Tomorrowland 2017 - © Tomorrowland

Budget plays a role, but is not decisive

“Another aspect, of course, is financial” continues G-STIC’s General Manager. “You can’t convince anyone with just a big budget, but it does help. Take Yuval Noah Harari, for example. That’s an investment that basically pays for itself, because profiles like this bring more participants but also additional partnerships. For example, we were able to secure a media partnership linked to Harari’s presence, which brings in new revenue. But you don’t have a guarantee of success, which is why not every organizer can or wants to take that risk.

But as I said before, it’s not just financial space that is important, but also a strong story. Harari also came mainly because sustainability is a hot topic, and because the link to Tomorrowland has great appeal. Even speakers of his level are happy to be there.”


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