Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Lighting industry leaders begin new journey

Russ Leslie (left) and Mark Rea (right) meet with William McDonough before the conference.

A new lighting coalition has agreed to embark on a five-to-ten year effort to chart a new socially responsible course for the field of lighting. The Bridges in Light advisory council, composed of researchers, utility officials, government agencies and manufacturers, met in December to begin developing an action plan. Council members have agreed to commit resources to this long-term effort. The council, with help from the Lighting Research Center, held the inaugural Bridges in Light symposium in October 2003, bringing together more than 130 participants in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for a full day of intensive talks described by some as "the First Continental Congress of Lighting."

Symposium co-chair Mark Rea, the LRC’s director, said this was a first. "The industry's most influential players have never been called for this type of collective effort before," said Dr. Rea. “Stakeholders in the lighting industry have agreed to move toward a sustainable value of lighting." That change will include a strategic effort to educate the public about the value of lighting in their lives. But Rea says the public will also have a voice. “If we are to meet the social values we have set out to meet, we must also listen with greater attention to the users of light.”

Rea views this change as a five-to-ten year journey. The lighting industry is as diverse as it is complex. There are many types of and uses for lighting, and hundreds of companies manufacture and market tens of thousands of different lighting products. Vigorous research is bringing new discoveries daily, and Rea says the time to begin this transformation is now.

Also calling this transformation a journey is symposium co-chair Govi Rao, vice president of business creation at Philips Lighting Co. Rao called the event “the first step of a long journey toward industry change.” Rao noted that, even though lighting is everywhere, the industry does not do a very good job of educating consumers about how important it is to them. He hopes this coming-together of lighting industry leaders will result in a collective acknowledgement of the challenges and uncertainties ahead. “Then,” he says, “minds will get together, commit to a journey of change, and lead to a meaningful resolution.”

Bridges Day participants explore business trends, future uncertainties

Those attending Bridges in Light became an important part of a very large but integrated team working through a full day of discussions, lectures and presentations. They identified challenges facing the lighting industry as well as long-term, sustainable solutions involving environmentally conscious design and high-quality lighting systems that meet society’s current and future needs. They also explored campaigns to promote the value of lighting to the world. These campaigns, said Dr. Rea, will include education, communications, advocacy, marketing and leadership. "People tend to view lighting simply as a commodity," said Rea, "without understanding lighting’s true value, including its ability to affect our health, comfort, productivity, and even energy savings."

Paul Schoemaker addresses the group.

Nearly a dozen invited speakers discussed business strategy, social responsibility, health, technology, and energy management. “The number one obstacle is how you change the thinking,” keynote speaker Paul Schoemaker told the audience. He urged participants to “re-inspire risk taking in the lighting industry” and called upon them to recognize the obstacles and drivers of change facing the industry today. His message reinforced the symposium’s goal of exploring social and technological drivers facing the lighting industry. “Leadership is about taking the long view and getting the big picture rather than focusing on narrow corporate concerns,” said Schoemaker, a business strategist and research director at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Internationally renowned designer William McDonough, recipient of the Presidential Medal for Sustainable Development, spoke about the need for the industry to design environmentally conscious manufacturing methods. McDonough, named Time Magazine’s Hero of the Planet, urged participants to consider the environmental ramifications of their product designs, processes, and materials.

Light-emitting diode (LED) pioneers Shuji Nakamura, George Craford and Yoshi Ohno discussed technology challenges, particularly in the development of high efficiency solid-state lighting systems. Light & Health innovator Dr. Alfred Lewy spoke about the importance of light to human health, disproving the notion that humans have evolved to the point of not being affected by the natural light/dark cycle. Ross Malme, a noted expert in energy load management, discussed how lighting can play an important role in managing electric peak load on the nation’s grid.

During a series of breakout sessions, symposium participants identified key long-term trends and future uncertainties for different segments of the industry. Different groups focused on lighting in commercial, residential, outdoor and healthcare settings.

Advisory Council

Members of the Bridges in Light Advisory Council include: Zia Eftekhar, President of Lightolier, Director & VP of the Genlyte Group; Kathleen Hogan, Director of Climate Protection Partnership Division, United States Environmental Protection Agency; Kerry Kuhlman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Western Mass. Electric Co.; Michael McCabe, Manager of the Office of Building Technologies Program, U.S. Department of Energy; Henny Peters, Executive VP & General Manager of General Lighting at Osram Sylvania; Govi Rao, VP of Business Creation at Philips Lighting; Mark Rea, Director of the Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; JF Simard, President & General Manager of Lumec, Inc.; Peter Smith, Acting President of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); and Yannis Tsavalas, General Manager of Global Technology, GE Lighting.

For more information visit the symposium''s web site at or the LRC’s Web site at

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment

2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute