What is the biggest barrier to growth in the architectural LED market?
Adrian Rawlinson: Within five years, I believe that 90% of RGB architectural lighting will have converted to LED technology. There are a number of reasons why I don’t think this will happen any more quickly.
If you look at the true cost of ownership, and factor in their exceptionally long life as well as low energy use, LED lighting is very economic, but the initial purchase price is much higher, and this is tending to put buyers off.
As volumes increase and larger fixture manufacturers move into the market, prices are sure to come down, making the case for LED overwhelming.
As the industry matures and consolidates, clear universally accepted standards for measuring light output and efficiency better standards should emerge. This will help buyers who remain confused about the specifications of the product that they are buying.
Currently, only some companies deliver a ready to install light complete with all the drivers and connectors required. Many still leave customers to sort out the complexities themselves.
Is there any form of lighting that cannot, in principle, be replaced by an LED light?
Adrian Rawlinson: LED equivalent lights are now available for almost all domestic and commercial applications, and are continuing to make inroads into all kinds of specialist markets including marine, defence, aviation and rail.
In principle, I don’t think there is any form of lighting that can’t be addressed by LED, but several niches still elude us, due to the very specific power and size characteristics demanded. The issue is often thermal management. Unlike other lighting technologies LED die have to be kept under 100°C, which means the use of bulky heatsinks in powerful lights
Car headlights, the highest efficiency fluorescents, stadium floodlights and gas discharge lamps are major lighting applications where LED lighting cannot provide the performance required at the moment. Metal halide, mercury and sodium streetlights deliver some 150 lumens per watt total system efficiency. LEDs are at least 2-3 years away from matching that.
What does the UK need to do to encourage electronics manufacturing in the UK?
Adrian Rawlinson: Marl has just had a good year, and a sustainable recovery could already be underway, in my view, if the true value of wealth creation through manufacturing was recognised as a starting point, and understood valued and embraced.
Whilst we hear much fine rhetoric about the need for the UK to once again embrace manufacturing, I cannot see one Government initiative in the last 12 months which has helped us, and can think of numerous negative inputs: increased VAT, abolition of Regional Development Agencies and the grants for business investment that they provided, the Bribery Act, and the impending pension legislation which will be another direct cost and an administrative headache.
Coupled with this is the lack of real commitment to support UK manufacturing in government contracts.
Is the education system creating enough well qualified young people to fulfil the needs of business in the next ten years?
Adrian Rawlinson: The education system needs to make sure that it offers young people at all levels the right courses to equip them for 21st century business. More than that, it needs to motivate them so that they understand that business and manufacturing is an exciting place to work.
However, currently the biggest barrier to bringing more young people into employment is the downturn aided and abetted by regulation.