How the Latvian Glass Producer Reaches Global Markets: the Transparent Case of GroGlass
Rarely would you think about the technology behind the ‘invisible’ glasses if you ever looked through the shop windows of Hugo Boss in Madrid, Apple in Berlin, or Dior in Chicago. Alternatively, the precious objects behind the 300 transparent vitrines and showcases in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or cold storage displays of Rewe supermarkets in Germany. It is the Latvia based company GroGlass, who develops and manufactures this technology in cooperation with universities, with its 150 employees and exports to over 45 countries across the world.
While having previous links to the largest markets in Netherlands, Ireland, and Germany in the production of greenhouse glass, after the 2008 economic crisis GroGlass needed to reposition itself by transitioning to the production of anti-reflective glass coatings and acrylic. The company then has established strong R&D links with several universities and research institutes that have contributed to its transformation and growth. In order to ensure a smooth and successful transition, GroGlass sought the help of the Institute of Solid State Physics (SSPI) at the University of Latvia, who enabled the organisation expand its reach beyond the EU and become one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers in its field.
Joint share of finances
When the mutual benefits of the cooperation are considered, GroGlass utilizes the advanced equipment and the expertise of the students and staff to carry out its R&D activities, whilst SSPI collects practical experience that informs its teaching, and advances the overall standing of the institute. Additionally, SSPI uses this particular experience to help forge similar collaborations in the future.
The activities carried out by the cooperation partners are funded by both institutions. SSPI mainly contributes with human resources and facilities. In that, the institute provides its well-furnished laboratory along with its scientists and researchers. It is also worth noting that students of the institute are trained to take part in some steps of the sample testing process. When it comes to GroGlass, both infrastructure and cash contributions are made. Among other things, GroGlass provides human resources, i.e., up to 20 engineers and technical staff, shoulders the responsibility of brining samples to be tested, and covers the cost of running urgent measurement and analysis. GroGlass finances some of the cost through national and European level grants. A notable example is the ‘Competence Center Program’ which accounted for approximately 70% of the research funding in 2012.
Result of the collaboration so far
GroGlass’ collaboration with SSPI and other universities and research centers, e.g. Wageningen and Alfred University, has allowed the organization successfully reposition itself in the industry. Among its customers are museums, design stores, television and electronic display producers. Similarly, the cooperation is contributing to the professional development of researchers at SSPI. Not to mention its role in advancing the competence of students who later on can secure a job easily as compared to their counterparts in other institutions.
Although a formal agreement between GroGlass and SSPI is in place, arguably the most important facilitator of effective collaboration has been the informal tie that exists between employees of the company and researchers of the institute. The fact that many of the engineers of GroGlass have either attended their studies and/or worked at SSPI has made it possible to have a seamless integration. The geographic proximity of the two institutes has also made its fair share of contribution to the development of organic workflow and trusting relationship.
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©all rights on images used in this article belong to GroGlass, Solid State Physics Institute, University of Latvia
Meet the authors
Habtamu Diriba is a graduate of the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MaRIHE). Before joining the MaRIHE programme, he has completed a two year graduate study in Business Administration (MBA) at Jimma University. His research interests mainly consist of topics relating to university entrepreneurship & innovation, higher education governance & policy, and internationalization. Habtamu has presented on multiple international conferences including winning the ‘Outstanding paper award’ at the 38th EAIR conference in Birmingham, UK.
Hacer Tercanli is a recent graduate of an Erasmus Mundus Masters course, Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MARIHE), and since November 2016 a Project Officer at UIIN. Previously she has worked in public and private higher education institutions in Turkey and completed a Fulbright Master’s program in Applied Linguistics in the US. As part of her Erasmus Mundus Master Hacer studied in Austria, Finland, China and Germany. During her studies she has participated in HE development projects that involved mapping digital learning environments in Germany and facilitation of internationalization in Turkey. In addition, Hacer has also been involved in EU projects at the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre in Munster, Germany. Among her recent interests are university-industry cooperation and quality assurance in international joint degree programs.