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Industry needs to adapt to prosper, says LIA president

The new president of the LIA, Peter Scott, of Fern-Howard Lighting

The lighting world needs to become more adaptable to new technological advancements, the president of the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) has said in an interview. Peter Scott, who is the CEO of Fern-Howard Lighting, stated that companies must adapt to the need for more specialist products or add value through other features, in a wide ranging interview that also touched on the developing role of the LIA and the unavoidable subject of our times, Brexit.

What would be your prediction for lighting in 10 years’ time?

The majority of commercial members won’t be supplying commodity type luminaires but in order to prosper will need to adapt to the need for more specialist products or add value through other features. For the consumer lighting market the changes have been and will continue to be the route to market rather than a revolution in product changes. The LED revolution has largely bypassed the consumer luminaire industry where style and artistic design carry more importance.

The LIA recently opened its new Academy, how important are skills in our changing industry?

I don’t believe there is anything more important that educating our industry and introducing new skill sets. If we are to survive and compete we absolutely have to do this and as change becomes even more rapid our ability to adapt to that change also points to training.

What effect do you think Brexit will have on the UK lighting industry?

I hope that it makes no difference at all. I hope that standards remain uniform throughout Europe which makes complete sense as it is our biggest market. The biggest issue for business is the period of uncertainty. It is still a community that has to live and work and trade together. Donald Trump’s election is a concern for global trade owing to the possibility of trade barriers and closed markets.

Who will be the movers and shakers in our industry looking forward five and 10 years?

The electronics world will drive the near future in terms of products. Japan has had a poor decade or more but I think they are on the rise again and their electronics expertise will serve them well. The EU are not particularly strong on electronics. The next phase will be software and data but my view is that the platforms generated by CISCO or Google, for example, are the vehicle enabling the industry to enter this new world rather than competing with us. As an industry we don’t appreciate the skills we have, lighting is an art form, a skill that the electronics industry has no knowledge of, so I don’t see them as a threat, more as an ally.

What is the future for luminaires if we are building products with increased longevity?

What we lack as an industry is sufficient information about, for example, what is the installed base of commercial lighting? I think that the reality is that less than 5 percent of the installed base is being converted to LED each year and although that will continue to accelerate despite the fact that most lighting sold is now LED. It could be 20 years before we have completely changed the installed base, by which time a good number of luminaires will be 20 years old. The ramifications of long life luminaires could be the same as for LED lamps, unless the smart revolution demands upgrades or replacements.

LIA has introduced the members surveillance initiative, what more can be done to tackle non-compliant and under-performing products?

This comes back to education, most people would not buy a cheap imported product if they really knew what they were buying. The problem is, in many cases, the supply chain is not sufficiently aware.

Do you see the role of the LIA changing in the coming years?

I hope so. I would like to see it become a more integrated part of the industry.

How important do you think BIM is for the industry?

On paper it seems to be an obvious step, in reality I think there are some challenges. The pace of change in the lighting industry means that BIM has to be flexible enough to cope with product updates or changes every few months.

Shuji Nakamura, who is regarded as the inventor of LED, recently said that the future is not LEDs but lasers. What is your view of that?

I find it hard to believe that LEDs are not the immediate future. It may be 15 years or so before we see a significant shift in technology away from LEDs such as laser generated lighting. The other consideration is the enormous investment in LED production plants which, given the rapid drop in LED chip prices, will take much longer to recoup their investment. The world of finance will have a major bearing on the next generation of light sources.

What is the biggest problem facing the LIA?

Member engagement. We have to better understand our members. We have 260 members but I’m guessing that probably only 40 or 50 are really engaged enough to reap the full benefits of membership. We have to accept that issues are driven by the bottom line. 

What do you miss about your early days in lighting?

Comradeship between competitors and suppliers. Even though we were in competition there was a more level playing field and therefore we enjoyed the game more. We now compete in a global market which is still predominantly price driven with competitors from the world over which makes the industry seem a lonelier place than it used to be.