Lighting firms compete to brighten up business

By Ruth Doris

As the EU began phasing out halogen light bulbs from this month, two Irish companies are using LED technology to provide energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly lighting for businesses.

Startup, Lightly Technologies has developed patented technology using LED to deliver OLED-quality lighting.

Co-founder and mechanical engineer Matt Hanbury had worked for Philips before moving to Japan to work for Apple on the iPhone 6S display.

In early 2016 he left to join his wife in Ireland. His idea for what would become Lightly Technologies began with the thought of “applying the technology from smartphones displays using LED and re-engineering it to create a product that looked like an OLED light source”.

Mr Hanbury explains that LEDs are little chips measuring 3mm by 3mm, with very high intensity and high glare, whereas OLEDs — used in television screens — are larger panels producing a uniform surface of light.

Lighting designers and lighting fixture manufacturers are very interested in OLED lighting because it allows them to create novel designs for very modern ultra-thin lighting fixtures, he says.

However, although there was interest in OLED for lighting, the technology wasn’t commercially viable at the time; it was very expensive and the performance wasn’t as good as LED, he adds.

Mr Hanbury spent about six months working on “proof of concept engineering”.

This involved “basically me with a 3D printer and some iPhone components on the kitchen table and putting it together to see if I could make it work with LED transformers”.

By mid-2016 he had a “very early crude attempt” which worked, and he decided to file a patent and develop it as a commercial project.

Mr Hanbury took part in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers incubator in 2017, which “turned him from an engineer into a businessman”.

Lightly Technologies has raised €665,000, including €550,000 in equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and €115,000 in a pre-seed investment round.

The company is currently in the final stages with Enterprise Ireland of securing match funding under the High Potential Start-up (HPSU) scheme.

Lightly Technologies is a team of three; including co-founder Brian Charman, who had also worked at Philips.

The startup plans its European launch later this month at the London Design Festival’s trade show. It has 56 customers in nine countries to prepare for the launch by selling “mature prototypes” as developer kits.

Elsewhere, an established company in the LED lighting market, Cork-based Verde LED, came about after co-founder John Keohane’s interest in the energy efficiency space. Having conducted research, he identified that LED lighting provided substantial savings over other lighting solutions.

Mr Keohane and co-founder Paul Martin launched Verde LED in 2010 after around 10 months of product research and development and testing. Compared with CFL — compact fluorescent light — and other lighting products, Mr Keohane says LED is the most efficient light source with the longest life.

LED is also superior for control applications and is not negatively affected by switching cycles in the same way fluorescent is,” he says.

Verde LED’s product range of indoor and external lighting is approved in Ireland, and Carbon Trust accredited in the UK.

Mr Keohane says his customers typically have large individual facilities and multiple sites with long burn hours. These include very large companies, and a broad range of businesses in the private and public sectors, including car park operators, shopping centres, manufacturing, schools, and universities, including University College Cork, and data centres.

Verde LED has recently launched a specific smart system for multi-storey car parks, which offers savings of up to 90% on energy costs.

While competitors include global brands such as Philips, Mr Keohane says: “In Ireland, we are the only lighting company to offer true cradle to grave solutions for clients” and provides its 700 customers savings of over €13m a year.

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