Phoenix award speech

Phoenix award speech Image

ICG president talks of her vision

PHOENIX AWARD 2019

Alicia DURAN

Research professor CSIC. President of ICG

Acceptance speak at a banquet in her honour

Finally, the day arrived. Today I am receiving the Phoenix Award 2019 after being nominated as Glass Person of the Year 2019. Everything began with a call from Jean-Luc Logel with a long introduction about the Award; I thought he was going to invite me to take part of the jury but finally he informed me that I had won this prize. It was amazing and totally unexpected! He told me that I would receive all the details by email and…disappeared. Three weeks later I met Erik, whose name appeared in the conversation, and asked him if it was a joke. And no, it wasn't!!

The prize binds me to think over what I have done to deserve it. I have to come back to the beginning of my career. I obtained my degree in Physics at the University of Córdoba, Argentina, with the specialty of Material Science and a degree thesis on Phase Separation in Glasses. From this first contact with glasses I applied for a fellowship of the Spanish Ministry of Labour for sons and grand-sons of Spanish emigrated. A very small salary for 18 months in two years. One month before leaving, I received the offer of a PhD fellowship in Stanford but I decided to come to Spain. My friends and professors thought I was crazy but I never regretted having made that decision.

I arrived to Spain the 1st October 1977, 42 years ago, to the Institute of Ceramic and Glass of Spanish Research Council, CSIC, the institution in which I developed my complete professional career. Rosa Menéndez, President of CSIC is today with us, thank you Rosa for finding a site in your agenda.

I came from very dark times in my country and I found a workplace open and friendly and a wonderful city that walked the first steps in democracy. Madrid is a very special city: open to everyone willing to live here; nobody feels foreigner in Madrid. I am Spanish-Argentinian nationalities but in my heart I am citizen of Madrid.

I arrived to the department of Glasses, Institute of Ceramic and Glass, with Professor José María Fernández Navarro, my dear great teacher in glass. I am sorry he cannot be here today. I began a PhD thesis on the Effect of Cu in glasses but two years later, when the scholarship was over, I began to work within a contract with Cristalería Española, Saint-Gobain, in a project on Opal glasses for glassware. It was my first contact with the glass industry and it marked and shaped my professional life. Starting from a deep search on the State of Art in opal glasses, I closely collaborated with the R&D centre in Avilés, mainly with Angel Joglar and Pedro Casariego, in designing a composition and producing opal glasses with suitable properties. The most important of this experience was the possibility of following all the steps of the production of Harmonia, the registered trademark of the glassware, in the factory of Azuqueca. We kept track the whole process, looking at the problems appearing (desopalisation, cracks, strips) to solve them from the understanding of what was happening in the devitrification process. It was amazing to run across the whole process, from the basic design of a material to the miracle of transforming knowledge in a final product! I have tried to run this same route in many projects developed during so many years. Moreover, I have tried that most researchers in my group share a similar feeling.

By those times, I contacted with ANFEVI, the Spanish association of producers of glass containers. They were developing a recycling system for glass containers, 12 years before the EU Directive 62/94, which aimed to harmonize national measures to prevent or reduce the environmental impact of packaging. The collaboration with ANFEVI, further extended to VIDRIO ESPAÑA, has been constant, confirmed by the presence of my very dear friends Javier Gutiérrez, Paco Prieto and Juan Martin Cano. We share the passion for glass; a passion built from the conviction that glass is the suitable material to construct a more sustainable world.  Recycling, weathering, Food safety regulations, energy saving, BREF regulation transposition and BAT reports on best available technologies to reduce environmental emissions, have been key issues in which we have worked together during 30 years. Verallia, Vidrala, Vicrila, Saint- Gobain, Owens, Guardian, along with smaller Spanish companies, working together for the common goal of strengthening the Spanish and European glass industry. A clear example that it's possible to combine collaboration within competition, between companies and countries, between academia and industry, between glass producers and glass end-users.

Cooperation/collaboration are key words in my life. Surely because glass researchers are usually the “poor nephews” of ceramics. Thus, we needed to extend our limits. I tried to maintain a continuous contact with glass industry but also with R&D centres in Europe, US, Japan, China and especially Latin America countries. Looking at WOK-SCI I checked that I have published with more than 230 authors from 27 countries! Integrated actions, Bilateral projects, European projects, cooperation with Latin American countries through CYTED-AECI, have been the tools used to build a wide network with the glass world.

The role of glass societies was essential in this route. I joined the SECV from the beginning of my incorporation to ICV, being Secretary of the Glass section for more than 25 years. And from SECV to the International Commission on Glass (ICG), the association in which I am working from 30 years ago. In 1988, I received the ICG Gottardi Prize in Harrogate, the same meeting in which SECV achieved the XVI ICG International Congress for Madrid 1992. This congress was indeed the beginning of an ongoing collaboration crowned in 2018 with my nomination as President of the ICG.

I remember the huge work developed in the SECV with Prof. Fdez. Navarro organising the ICG congress using post, FAX and Telex, w/o email!!! As scientific secretary I coordinated the scientific programme, edited the 8 books of proceedings and organised the simultaneous translation to and from French, English and German of all the talks. I will deeply thank forever the great support of Helmut Schaeffer, CTC chair in that time, who trusted us overcoming the doubts of the president. It was a good congress and the visit to Toledo will be always reminded.

However, my key goal and my greater efforts were always devoted to create a stable and strong research group, capable of facing the narrow limits of the Spanish R&D policy. A policy closely related to economic cycles, instead of using R&D as a tool to strengthen the sci-tech capacity and readdressing industrial system to generate a new culture based in innovation. It was not easy to reach this goal. The group GlaSS was born in 1998 with 2 staff researchers, 2 technicians and several PhD students. Those young scientists, today great researchers, suffered job instability, long pos-doc stages abroad and infinite number of contracts until they got their permanent positions. New technicians also joined the group supporting and organising the lab work. We reached, working very hard but remaining together, to build the GlaSS group that is today the reference on glass science in Spain, being recognised as a group of excellence by CSIC. I would not be here w/o Mario, María Jesús, Yolanda, Fran or Jadra. Because they keep work and illusion day by day; along with our students and with our wonderful technicians (Juan, Antonio, Laura, Desiré, Eva, Rosi).

The GlaSS group is the result of a hard work developed putting people in the heart of the project. I have always worked from the idea of science as a collective process, as a work done by people who build in common from different areas and positions. Researchers and students, technicians, engineers and managers have their own mission and their site in the complex architecture of science and innovative knowledge created in research labs and industry. The fundamental idea supporting this building is to work convincing and not imposing, to stimulate imagination and look for new ideas, new perspectives; listening and managing diversity, trying to be flexible and ductile.

The mission of GlaSS group that is the mission of my life can be easily summarised:

A main aim is to focus on open research, searching in the borders of knowledge to find new compositions, new functions, new processing routes, for imagine new applications of glass.

Collaboration and internationalisation is a signal of identity. Born from the need of broadening our limits, this policy has situated our group in the glass world map.

Education and Training is an essential factor in the promotion of glass. This is also the key to get younger people to join glass research and glass industry. We collaborate with different Spanish universities including glass contents in experimental careers and masters. We have given courses on different glass topics in Spain and many Latin America countries, in the frame of cooperation projects or with ICG. We collaborate with ICG Summer School in Montpellier, the Winter School in Wuhan –China-, or the last NA School on Photonics.

Gender equality has been an always-present issue, looking for promoting and expanding the work and visibility of women in CSIC, in the glass field and particularly in ICG. The aim is to break the “glass ceiling”, understood as a limit that prevent women from advancing to top positions in companies and R&D institutions. There are many arguments for changing this situation:

Social justice and fairness are obvious, but there are also functional arguments:

Diversity increases creativity, providing a substantially broader point of view, with more sensitivity and respect for different perspectives, which is invaluable to any organization.

Diversity increases quality. The more diverse the background and experiences of the researchers, the less likely it is that research is biased.

Gender equality improves efficiency as confirmed by the new orientation of universities towards business strategies and many reports confirming the higher revenues and results in industrial companies including women as CEO.

I know it is difficult to reach women equality in an only institution as CSIC or ICG, because this is a goal to achieve all across the field, from academia to industry. However, we have to imagine and use different tools to help women to achieve their full potential.

I was the second woman to reach the Presidency of the ICG and today I am the second woman to be awarded with the Phoenix Award. In both cases Alev Yaraman led the way; Alev is the special mirror in which I wish to see myself reflected.

I am close to the end of my career but I still have two main goals to achieve before retirement:

The ICG2030 project and the International Year of Glass 2022.

After 87 years after it was born in 1933, ICG combines the ideals and goals of our founders with the emerging features of glass science and technology. But if we pretend to represent the glass world, we need to change with this world. Information technologies, globalisation, world competition, shorter times between the lab and the market are the new rules. David Pye and Alev Yaraman proposed in 1998 in San Francisco a Committee for designing a strategy plan for the new millennium, presented in Amsterdam in 2000, opening ICG to the new technologies and opportunities for glass. Fabio Nicoletti announced the Winds of Change in 2009 promoting the extension to the East, tuning ICG to the shifting gravity centre of glass world. ICG2030 is our project to face the new challenge of ICG: to grow in weight and relevance, representing and serving all the players in glass field.

We have to carry forward the work of international collaboration between glass technologists & scientists of the world and also to identify future directions for research and development, to achieve that more and better glass products and applications become key issues for solving the challenges of XXI century. This was our original mission and it is our new mission in the Glass Age. My goal, the same of all ICG presidents, is putting glass in the future, turn glass in an enabling material for essential technologies: information, photonics, biomedicine, energy or nanomaterials. Respecting and improving the role and the potentiality of traditional glass products; never forgetting art and history, to learn from our past and nourish the soul. My ambition, as yours, is building the future in glass.

Glass has proven to be one of the most important materials for enabling the development of contemporary human civilization.  Owing to this huge impact of glass on modern society, it has been proposed that we are now living in The Glass Age. The positive influence of glass on our world continues to grow as new glass products and processes are developed to address global challenges in energy, architecture, environment, healthcare, information/communication technology, photonics and more, all toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations.

The history of glass is filled with milestones that forever changed the world in which we live. The invention of the glass cane in Roman times turned glass in a popular material. The telescope of Galileo permitted to look in the cosmos while the microscope allowed exploring the field of cells, microbes and blood. Advancing in time, glass was protagonist for high-speed manufacture of incandescent light bulbs and glass containers; glass-ceramics were born when we were able to control the crystallization of glass. Furthermore, the development of optical fibres led to igniting the world-wide internet, permitting the change of paradigm that gave rise to the global communications revolution.

In summary, glass is the invisible, transparent tool that allows building a sustainable planet with more developed and fair societies. But glass involves much further than science. Glass is also art, the history of this material sharing the history and evolution of humankind.

Against this storied background, an international groundswell has arisen to pursue a United Nations International Year of Glass for 2022 that will underline the technological, scientific and economic importance of glass—the transparent material that can enable the emergence of more developed, just, and sustainable societies to meet the challenges of globalization.

The Council of the International Commission on Glass celebrated in Boston on last June strongly supported and approved the initiative and agreed to bring the proposal to the United Nations. The Spanish ambassador at UN accepted to take the initiative to the General Assembly. Now, extensive planning is underway at the international level to make possible this UN Year of Glass, involving scientific glass-themed societies, academia and industry as well as museums and art societies. Formal endorsements will be requested to permit arriving to a successful resolution at UN General Assembly in July 2020. The kick-off meeting will be in Geneva in February 2022, followed by the International ICG congress in Berlin, coinciding with the 100 anniversary of DGG, and a worldwide event on glass art and history, developed along with thousands of activities all over the world.

If we achieve these goals, the effort invested will be worth invested. However, I think it will be very difficult to leave the glass issues because I will never stop loving glass.

 

I arrive to the end and I have to thank all those friends and colleagues from which I learnt everything I am. My first glass teacher, Prof. Fernández Navarro; my former students, now wonderful researchers, as Maria, Yolanda, Jadra or Fran. My friends from the institute and CSIC. The hundreds of glass friends I found in this long career, including my dear friends from Argentina and Latin America. My special friends of the Spanish glass industry always sharing the passion for glass.

I need to remind some very special persons that guided my work in ICG. Helmut Schaeffer, that trusted myself in the ICG congress in Madrid and again when offered me the Treasury of ICG in 2002.

John Parker, the best glass teacher in the world. Working and living for glass.

Alev Yaraman that conferred her identity to the managing: professionalism, rigor, hard work and respect for those who work and love glass.

And Fabio Nicoletti, my so loved friend in glass. After so many years, I think we are much closer to that place we dreamed to build: a meeting place where we share the common interest and passion for glass but where the first concern is always people.

Last but not least, I have to deeply thank the Phoenix Award Committee, and particularly to Jean-Luc and Erik, for this unexpected and superb gift. You have to know that the Phoenix glass bird is wonderful! However, the best, the greatest prize is that all of you are today in Madrid sharing this so special moment.

Thank you a lot, dear friends, for helping me to make this dream come true.

Last Updated: 17/10/2019
Author: John Parker
Labels: Icg News

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