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The milestone of Dietrich van der Weken

As the General Manager of G-STIC, Dietrich van der Weken connects innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, captains of industry and policymakers from around the globe. The aim? Accelerating the market-ready, integrated tech solutions that will help eradicate poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and secure health, justice and prosperity for all. “G-STIC shows that many of the technologies the world needs to achieve its SDGs are in fact at our fingertips,” he tells us.

Achieving sustainable Development goals through technology

From the Brundtland Commission’s primal definition of sustainability in 1987 (“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”) to the introduction of the SDGs in 2015, the past decades have seen many important sustainability milestones. For VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research from which G-STIC emerged, especially the developments in 2015 acted as a game-changer for fostering global collaboration. Dietrich:

“Our focus shifted from Europe to the world, and from technological innovations as such to solutions that tackle multiple challenges across disciplines to achieve social, environmental and economic benefits. We wanted G-STIC to become the Davos of technology and sustainability.”

Shifting the UN’s mindset

Helping to introduce the integrated-solutions approach as a framework of thought at the UN is one of the milestones Dietrich is most proud of: “Our primary focus has always been on integrated approaches and solutions that address multiple sustainability challenges simultaneously. For example, using processed organic household waste to filter wastewater, or converting water treatment plants into power plants. Thus, you can reduce costs while avoiding risks. Providing several examples that exemplify this approach, we successfully made it the standard at the United Nations.”

“We want G-STIC to become the Davos of technology and sustainability.”

Dietrich Van der Weken

Partnership as a Sustainable Development Goal

G-STIC started out as an acronym for the ‘Global Sustainable Technology and Innovation Conference’, but now the C stands for ‘Community’. Teamwork – at local, national and international levels – is indeed paramount. “To achieve the SDGs, we have to transcend boundaries and barriers. Partnership is so significant that it has even become an SDG on its own: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development’.”

“We need a new, hybrid conference format with (inter)active elements like site visits, walks and movie nights.”

Even if ‘Conference’ is no longer a part of G-STIC’s name, their yearly convention remains a milestone. The conference landscape has changed drastically in the last years, though, according to Dietrich. “Mass events have become less appealing, yet fully digitised conferences also have their limits. We need a new, hybrid format with (inter)active elements like site visits, innovation tours and movie nights.”

Dietrich and his team may be leading the way with their take on the Flanders Technology & Innovation (FTI) conference in Hasselt, which brings people together around technology and innovation to drive sustainable prosperity. “We are in the lead for FTI Hasselt, and we want to make the festival come to life throughout the city. Everything we organise is tested against the questions ‘Is it locally anchored?’ and ‘Does it have a lasting, positive effect on the city?’ This impact-driven approach is new to us, and we are curious to see the results.”

“What happens on the sidelines of a conference is as important as what happens on stage.”

Aiming for Obama

Earlier this year, Dietrich and his team brought 4,200 participants from 140 countries together in Rio de Janeiro for their sixth conference – the first G-STIC conference in South America, and the first organised by one of their nine international partners. “This event marked a significant milestone that sparked enthusiasm in other countries. The G-STIC Conference in India is up next, and we’re also talking with China, South Africa and Morocco.”

The World Expo in Dubai hosted the 2022 G-STIC Conference, providing Dietrich with an opportunity to talk to the President of Malawi, one of the keynote speakers. “What happens on the sidelines of a conference is as important as what happens on stage. Interesting matches and plans are often made right there.” One of Dietrich’s not-so-secret plans? “To get Obama to speak at a G-STIC Conference. His speeches are a textbook example of how to leave a lasting impact.”

Schouwburg Kortrijk - (c) Mark Depaepe

What’s your milestone?

Set it with a conference in Flanders.

Just like Dietrich van der Weken, as a researcher, scientist, entrepreneur or policy maker, you want to set a milestone. A conference in Flanders can make an important contribution to your goal. It allows you to tap into the passion and expertise of insightful minds, bringing you another step closer to achieving your own milestone.

As a service of VISITFLANDERS Convention Bureau, our experts reflect together with you on the positive, long-term impact of your conference. Want to know more about this exclusive service, free of charge for your association? Click the button below.

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