OPINION: Redefining innovation

Aug. 24, 2022
Recent industry event raises comments about whether innovation in lighting is on the decline.

On occasion, social media posts take up more space in my day than I expected. Sometimes I am intrigued, looking for more detail. Sometimes I am confused and looking to gain more context. Sometimes, like this week, I am inspired to comment.

I’ve seen one or two announcements thus far regarding the submittals accepted into the 2022 Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Progress Report, and I have put out the call on LinkedIn for companies to send in their product details for an LEDs Magazine roundup. Yet I don’t have the full picture, so I read with great interest Shirley Coyle’s piece on EdisonReport regarding the IES Progress Report presentation and trend analysis that was delivered by longtime IES member Mark Lien during the IES Annual Conference.

Disclaimer: I was not in attendance at the IES Conference and I did not hear Lien speak at the event. My commentary on this blog is based solely on the trends Lien was reported to have covered during the analysis kickoff to the 2022 IES Progress Report.

In her report, Coyle writes, “[Lien’s] trend analysis provided context for the 80 or so submittals accepted for the 2022 IES Progress Report. He noted 2022’s low submittal count compared to the heyday of the LED revolution, asking whether innovation is in decline in our industry.”

Respectfully, no, I don’t think innovation is in decline in the lighting industry. While components have been commoditized (which former Strategies Unlimited analysts had been observing for years) and, as Lien noted, the industry has been consolidating (see Current, Signify, and ams Osram activities for examples), the fixture development process has begun to shift in concentration from lumen output to greater control all around, in terms of beam distribution, stable color quality/output, and controllability of fixtures.

The phrase “product refinements” was used to describe the majority of the 2022 Progress Report submittals; I don’t know whether those words are strictly Coyle’s interpretation or Lien’s specific comments. In any case, it didn’t seem to be intended as a positive trend or term.

We need to redefine what is considered “innovative” as it pertains to the lighting market. Innovation, in my opinion, rests more on quality light delivered in a responsible and effective manner for the application for which it is intended. Let’s move on from lm/$, lm/W, and certainly let’s move past the number of submissions received by industry recognition programs because “innovation” shouldn’t only cover a large number of technology releases. The lighting industry has reached a period of refinement. We should place the emphasis on form, function, and determining a value for how SSL products may improve experiences, enhance connections between an environment and its occupants, and create demand for novel materials, construction, and implementation. All this requires even greater ingenuity and a reshaping of the roadmap for LED innovation.

CARRIE MEADOWS is managing editor of LEDs Magazine, with 20 years’ experience in business-to-business publishing across technology markets including solid-state technology manufacturing, fiberoptic communications, machine vision, lasers and photonics, and LEDs and lighting.

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