SSL business news: GE Current and hort, GE Lighting, Asahi, and Kyocera

Jan. 13, 2021
Current has partnered with Aquila Capital to broaden horticultural SSL deployment in Europe while C by GE disappears, UV accelerator expands, and merger closes.

GE Current has announced a horticultural-lighting-centric partnership with Aquila Capital in Europe seeking to broaden the market for Arize fixtures across the continent. GE Lighting (a Savant business) is utilizing the virtual CES to rebrand the C By GE smart lighting platform and expand the scope of the offering. Asahi Kasei and Crystal IS have added another phase to their UV Accelerator providing funding for startups looking to innovate with ultraviolet (UV) LEDs with an emphasis on germicidal UV-C-band (100–280-nm) technology. Kyocera has completed the acquisition of startup SLD Laser.

Current and Aquila

Current was among the earliest of players in LED-based horticultural lighting products targeting controlled environment agriculture (CEA) in greenhouse and indoor grow facilities. The company has recently seemed to reemphasize its interest in the horticultural sector. Just over a year ago, the company brought its latest Arize fixtures to market. And more recently, the company announced a partnership with North Carolina State University focused on cannabis research.

But as GE Lighting fractured within the GE corporate organization, Current lost channels into the European sector. As a partner, Aquila can help Current to grow its presence. Aquila will finance purchase of the Arize products and AgTech systems with growers paying nothing upfront to install the energy-efficient lighting.

“The horticulture industry is well aware of its environmental responsibilities and the sustainability targets being handed down across all sectors,” said James Fleet, commercial general manager at Current. “Aquila Capital’s energy-efficiency team is the ideal partner as it has already helped a number of European greenhouse operators to implement energy-efficient biomass technology at scale. The team understands the needs of European growers and can build bespoke, flexible financing solutions rapidly, allowing them to reap the financial and environmental benefits of deploying our Arize LED solutions immediately and with minimal risk.”

For Aquila, the deal affords the opportunity to work with a company with multinational experience and a deep technology base. “Our investment strategy is specialized on financing small-to-medium size energy efficiency projects for industrial or commercial companies, and implementing these projects in partnerships with experienced project developers,” said Bruno Derungs, senior investment manager with Aquila Capital. “With Current, we have an excellent multinational technology provider as a strong partner. Our financing offering will further reduce the barriers for operators to run their greenhouses on the most innovative and energy-efficient technology. We are excited to contribute to our common goal of driving forward the energy transition by supporting Current to realize additional projects.”

Current has also made an announcement about an experienced SSL-sector executive joining the company. Carla Bukalski has joined as director of specification. She was most recently at Cooper Lighting.

Savant’s GE Lighting

Meanwhile, former Current stablemate GE Lighting has announced major changes in C by GE. When Savant acquired the GE lamps business last May, we speculated that the technology underlying the C by GE platform might be one reason. GE Lighting was trying to build a third-party-inclusive ecosystem around the residentially-targeted, wireless-enabled technology. Clearly, Savant didn’t like the name that can indeed be a mouthful, and also wanted to broaden the target to the entire smart home.

So C by GE is now Cync. There is a new app for control. And the portfolio adds an indoor camera, outdoor plugs, and fan controls. A smart thermostat is said to be coming soon.

“This is going to be a truly exciting year as we continue to launch innovations that will make the benefits of the smart home more accessible, easy to install and control through one simple app experience,” says Paul Williams, general manager of product management and growth at GE. “It’s an ideal time to evolve our C by GE brand into Cync, a new brand that best reflects how all of our smart home solutions connect easily and work together seamlessly for a complete smart home experience that can be customized to the lifestyle of every consumer.”

UV-C funding

Even with COVID-19 vaccines deploying, germicidal UV-C remains a burgeoning technology. And watch for our coming special report on the technology in the January/February issue. Back last summer, LED manufacturer Crystal IS and parent company Asahi Kasei announced an investment program where startups could win $250,000 in funding with innovative UV-C concepts. Asahi and Crystal said they made two awards in the first phase of the program but still have money to invest. So the second phase has launched.

The program will seek ideas in the second round that can help people feel safer returning to offices in a post-pandemic world. In addition to the investment, Crystal will also offer engineering assistance to funded projects.

Laser sources

Our last item today marks the exit of the second startup at which blue-LED innovator Shuji Nakamura was a principal and co-founder. Nakamura had championed laser technology as a source that could usurp LEDs in some applications. The company first operated as Soraa Laser. The name was later changed to SLD Laser to eliminate confusion with Soraa, the LED and lamp manufacturer with which Nakamura was involved.

Soraa was acquired by Ecosense last March. SLD Laser was operating at an earlier stage with less-mature technology, relatively speaking. Now the company will operate as a Kyocera business unit under the name Kyocera SLD Laser or KSLD.

“We are pleased to announce the completion of the acquisition of SLD by Kyocera,” said James Raring, president and CEO of KSLD. “Leveraging our spirit of innovation and strength as a Kyocera group company, we are dedicated to the safe and successful application of laser-based innovations for high-brightness illumination and displays. Together with Kyocera, we will continue the pursuit of our Beyond Lighting vision to pioneer LaserLight products in applications such as precision sensing, high-speed Li-Fi communication, industrial processing, and biomedicine.”

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