Top local rubber industry personality and Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd. Chairman, Lalith Hapangama has become the first Sri Lankan to clinch the highly prestigious GRC Wickham Award in the technology commercialization segment.
Hapangama received the only award in the category surpassing nominations submitted from numerous countries engaged in both upstream and downstream activities of the natural rubber industry, following a rigorous selection process involving a leading panel of global experts. The trophy and certificate were presented by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen on 28 October, in the presence of an ‘august gathering’ of top rubber industry professionals, academics etc from over 25 countries, attending the Global Rubber Conference (GRC) held in Sri Lanka for the first time.
The accolade, presented only once in every two years, was awarded in recognition of Hapangama’s pioneering efforts in collaborating with local partners such as the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) of Sri Lanka and foreign institutions to adopt and commercialize technological innovations for the growth of Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd., including for the manufacture of gloves and the agricultural activities of its plantations. Under Hapangama’s stewardship, Lalan Rubbers developed a comprehensive Research and Development (R&D) wing and a reputation as a local leader in the adoption of technology introduced by the RRI.
“This award, for which nominations have been made from many countries, indicates that despite not being the largest in scale, Sri Lanka still has the capacity to emerge victorious at the international level in the rubber industry,” Lalith Hapangama commenting on the award said. “This should therefore be seen as a source of motivation for the entire local rubber sector. It also highlights the vital role played by local institutions such as the RRI, whose support too contributed substantially to this achievement. Therefore I would like to express my gratitude to all those institutions as well as to the dedicated and innovative staff of my company.”
After leaving Ananda College, Hapangama majored in Chemistry at the University of Surrey and Rubber Technology, at The National College of Rubber Technology and Management Studies, Imperial College of London. His passion for rubber-based industries was inculcated in him at an early age by his father David Hapangama, who entered the rubber export industry in 1947.
He has played a key role in establishing Sri Lanka as a formidable force in the global rubber products market, especially for gloves by exporting to the most renowned supermarkets in the world as well as supplying to leading automotive, aircraft, chemical, electronic, food and construction industrial brands. Through his contributions, Hapangama has succeeded in providing a livelihood to over 15,000 families.
The fourth Global Rubber Conference (GRC) held from 27th to 30th October 2014 – which bestowed the accolade upon Hapangama – is one of the world’s foremost conferences on natural rubber and attracted a large number of delegates from 25 countries and was expected to feature more than 18 eminent guest speakers, according to its organisers. The prestigious event, supported by global industry giants of the calibre of the International Rubber Research Development Board (IRRDB) in addition to numerous local private and public institutions, was held this year under the theme ‘Sowing the Seeds for a Sustainable Future’. The event targeted a wide cross section of stakeholders including government officials, rubber producers and planters, traders, importers and exporters, manufacturers of rubber products, commodity and investment analysts, rubber machinery and equipment suppliers and members from their supporting industries. Its main objectives were to facilitate exchange of experiences among industry stakeholders, update them on industry trends, enhance their product and market knowledge and provide networking opportunities