Industry watchers predict a sea change in the lighting business over the next five years as affordable and super-efficient LEDs bulldoze older forms of lighting. Giants like Osram and Philips are poised to take advantage, but a Montreal upstart is more than holding its own, growing revenues by 70% a year. Lumenpulse, founded in 2006, stays ahead of the technology, customer demands and the competition by treating innovation as a concrete strategy.
The company has churned out roughly 15 new products in each of the past three years, and holds 25 patents with 51 pending. “Lumenpulse is insanely innovative,” says Kris Thompson, an analyst with National Bank Financial. “They take their time in introducing new products that are truly next-generation.” The company has some notable achievements, such the colour-changing lights that illuminate The Shard in London.
Lumenpulse’s process starts with a road map of products it wants to offer, explains Yvon Roy, vice-president of investor relations. It targets specification-grade lighting—a high-margin segment where architects, lighting designers and engineers request solutions for new or renovated structures. A year ago, Lumenpulse offered products covering a quarter of this segment. Following a spate of new releases and an acquisition, that offering stands at 40%, and it’s only now entering the office, hospitality and retail niche.
Lumenpulse devises products for these segments by listening to its customers. “Often the customer doesn’t know what he wants. He has a problem, and he needs a solution,” Roy says. Consider Lumentalk, among the most promising of its proprietary technolgoies. Architects and lighting designers were stuck for a way to upgrade the lighting in existing buildings where rewiring would be expensive or forbidden due to a heritage designation. So Lumenpulse’s R&D team came up with a way of allowing lights to communicate with their control panels through existing electrical wiring.
Customers also needed to shrink the size of the fixtures to be inconspicuous. The team deconstructed every part of an LED fitting, examined each component and asked, “What if we took out the power supply?” Roy says. They then came up with a way to turn the alternating current in the building’s wiring into a usable direct current to power the LEDs.
Promising ideas are assigned to a project manager and go through a standardized development process. Though it’s the R&D team’s job to keep on top of technology, innovation is part of the culture—right down to the assembly floor, Roy says. “Everybody in the company has to contribute.”