Thursday, April 18, 2013

Light Shapes the Path of our Future

"Ancient people seem to have understood perfectly well the economic life is a matter of adding new goods and services. But instead of seeing the logic and order by which this happens, they saw magic." (Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities)

Light is almost magic. In form of the electric light bulb just being banned lately in Europe by law, and the Energiewende (due to the events in Japan in the earthquake, and tsunami in spring 2011) it has become an issue that drives innovation around new technologies - sometimes, even by magic.

Here in Dresden not only a governement-funded large-scale project, called #CoolSilicon in order to lower the energy use of future mobile applications, going down to the processor itself, but other "edgy" fields around technology inventions, and the adjacent innovations from it emerge. Still at a small scale one has to admit, however growing at exponential rate.

Fraunhofer COMEDD at #ipd2013
The field in question is #OrganicElectronics, and especially #OLED lighting which is still in an infant stage compared to traditional lighting.

What may be so special about OLED lighting, that even whole conferences, or at least major parts of such are covering on the underlying technologies, research, and pilot projects?

OLED (organic light emitting diods) is mainly a flat, scalable lighting based on organic material free of hazardos  material like HG which can be adapted, and shaped in forms only you can imagine. About a year ago Angela Incampo proposed the concept of #OLEDine during the 7th Silicon Saxony Day here in Dresden to bring this to performing arts, namely ballet in order to combine the beauty of dance with the engineering genius of OLED, and the design spirit of fashion makers [LINK].

Fraunhofer Gesellschaft one of the world's largest industry-driven research commuities, on the edge to academics, is not only well-established in Dresden due to a long history in microelectronics, and machinery but holds a major part of the activities in this new lighting field. Favorable conditions like GLOBALFOUNDRIES Fab1, DRESDEN-concept, SEMICONEuropa (especially with the panels at Plastic Electronics 2013, on Twitter more via #PlasticElectronics2013 soon) are the drivers for what emerged last week:

Fraunhofer COMEDD's official opening as an independant industry research institute (especially in the field of OLED and bi-directional microdisplays [mentioned in WIREDUK magazine, p. 51]

Taking the chance to make the opening not just a small dot on the event calendar the following day the 1st Industry Partners Day of Fraunhofer COMEDD pulled in almost 100 partners of ongoing projects from close and far to learn more about what can be achieved for society with these new technologies. The program was overwhelming, and diverse - from organic solar cells, to sensors in medical use, use cases of interactive bi-directional microdisplays such as for #GoogleGlass [GoogleGlass specs for the serious geek]. Even though this one day was certainly not enough to capture and digest all the input, and see the vastly broad (currently) loose connections to future use fields it pulled the interest by the participants who had come not only from Germany, but from Europe as well. #SEMICONEuropa, 8-10 October 2013 in Dresden will certainly bring the next, and longer opportunity to learn more about the research, and industry chances that are connected with Dresden.

During the talks one thing became quite clear: from single pilot product to small-scale, and scalable projects to bring this new energy efficient OLED lighting technology into public awareness, and then use is the main challenge. The OLED substrate from NOVALED, another Dresden-based technology startup is in the newest smartphones made by SAMSUNG, and is one of many small steps on the #SiliconSaxony road towards success, to learn, and build on. And it needs more than just establishing new tech tools to do the early production. The interweaving of technology, (unaware) customers, and innovative business models is the challenge of today's exponentially accelerating technology arenas. Too often the "Just think big"-attitude, only acting as a potential buyer/ industry partner when the concrete outcome in financial terms is the one and only key driver that keeps technology innovations too often "in the basement" or early stage scaling.

What is the global grand challenge that OLED in specific could be of help? It certainly has to do with energy (because these use a "drop of it" compared to normal lighting facilities), and the beauty, and natural light temperature they give in comparison to ultra-bright LED spots, or "heating ovens" that we still call light bulbs.

TRILUX at #ipd2013
We are certainly in the very early stage of a rippling shift in the adjacent industry, especially around lighting, and energy infrastructure, and just thinking a step further can disrupt the current business fabric fully. When your OLED is powered by your organic PV panels wrapped around your house, or sealed in the doubling of your house's windows what else will be different?

Overall this intense #ipd2013 (Industry Partners Day) on April 10, 2013 was a future talk on the edge of a hot innovation hub, waiting to erupt into economic local growth opportunities once the focus of public, and business organizations rescope, and broaden the focus away from solely bringing technology into being, but build on the value-creation chain from there. For this small bold actions, changes in innovation funding, and working on effective innovation funding approaches, and its acceleration appreciating the truly new will open up the "Opportunity Space" towards #Abundance.