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Lighting The Roads To Russia

In the race to light up Russia's streets and parks, the Optogan-Philips joint venture prepares to shine the brightest, Compound Semiconductor reports.

Thanks to government subsidies, the Russian outdoor LED lighting industry is slated for rapid growth -  will Philips's strategic alliance with Optogan ensure market share?

Just less than a year after industry rivals Optogan and Philips revealed plans to enter the market for road lighting in Russia together, the joint venture has launched manufacturing at Optogan's LED facility in St Petersburg, Russia.

Manufacturing outdoor luminaires based on III-nitride LEDs, the partners aim to ramp annual capacity to 50,000 luminaires for streets, yards and parks as soon as possible. As Andre Richter, head of the Philips-Optogan venture explains: “The products right now are based on successful, new Philips concepts. Manufacturing takes place here with local Russian components and we're looking to increase the Optogan content."

In the last year the duo claim to have reduced luminaire cost by some 30%, although as Richter states, these systems do not yet include Optogan's LEDs. This, says Richter, is something he is 'looking at' as well as integrating other Optogan components such as low temperature drivers, already optimised for Russian operation, to the final product. Optogan currently delivers LEDs to other luminaire players.

So, in the meantime, what does each company gain from the partnership? For Philips, the answer is relatively straightforward; a foot in the doorway of the up and coming Russian LED market.

Road lighting in Russia is expected to become one of the leading growth markets for LED products, tipped to double to Euro100m by 2015. And of course, Optogan with its St Petersburg facility, already has a strong knowledge of local markets and customer demands.

But for a vertically integrated outfit such as Optogan, manufacturing LEDs, LED bulbs and LED luminaires and clearly entrenched in the Russia-based market, why partner with an outside competitor such as Philips? In short, experience.

According to Richter, globally, many companies manufacturing LED modules are trying to enter the outdoor lighting market. But despite making modules with the necessary optical performance, can these new entrants guarantee final luminaire performance?

“The outdoor market has very specific requirements in terms of the output and performance of luminaires," explains Richter. “Even for a company such as Optogan which is already successful in indoor applications, a lot can be learned, in terms of production technologies and quality standards, by linking up with a multi-national company such as Philips."

Crucially, the partnership should also accelerate time to market. Growth is predominantly driven by government energy efficiency programs, and as Richter says: “Pilot projects are taking place everywhere and these are scaling-up. In our judgement, this market is about to explode." So, as the world waits for Russia's widely anticipated outdoor lighting market to take-off, Philips and Optogan are likely to be amongst the first to scoop the action.

The partner's 'Avenue' luminieres, fresh off the St Petersburg production line, promise up to 100 lumens per Watt efficacy, and according to Richter will be the first in the Russian market to replace 400W sodium bulbs, “output-wise and performance-wise".

Richter believes mutual interest has been critical to getting production off the ground so quickly. “There's been little competition and lots of common targets," he says. “Philips has contributed its experience of production technology while Optogan has made the space and provided a good location within its own LED fabrication facilities... as well as helping with legal processes."

So with Russia in hand, are the partners ready to face the rest of the world? Not yet.

As Richter concludes: “For the time being there is huge potential in the Russian market, so I am focusing the venture on this nation only. For sure, you always consider different regions to operate in, but for now I will not deviate my focus from a very promising segment, and maybe risk losing direction."

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