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Iota Light - Business case study

Worcester company sees light at the end of the tunnel with support from Worcestershire Proof of Concept (POC)

Established in September 2018 by Founder Director Andrew Leigh, Worcester-based Iota Light is an independent supplier of contemporary, bespoke smart lighting to a range of target sectors, including LED lighting for plant growth, bespoke lighting for architectural applications, and cutting-edge lighting systems for commercial use.

Although lighting for plant growth represents around 50% of the company’s business, Iota identified an opportunity to increase company revenues in the architectural and commercial sectors. Taking up the narrative, Andrew comments that:

“We identified a gap in the market, namely bringing architectural pendant lights that can make use of DALI controls to a commercial application and doing it at a cost-effective price point. Currently, the combination of contemporary pendant lighting and DALI controls represents a very expensive installation. We can take any pendant light, an off-the-shelf product from B&Q for example, and turn it into a DALI pendant light. Iota is the only company in the UK that will provide that solution.”

The Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) encompasses network-based products that control the lighting aspect within overall Building Management Systems (BMS). The underlying technology was established by a consortium of lighting equipment manufacturers and allows commercial clients to dim lights up or down on request, identify faults on specific lights within a system, and access reporting on light and energy usage. Iota’s system allows client, architects for example, to buy any pendant light with an E27 cap and, with Iota’s system, make the product “sit” on the client’s BMS, giving the facilities management team a full reporting solution for all lights on the system, including architectural smart pendants. Iota’s system also utilises removable bulbs, a novel development for DALI systems, meaning that bulbs can be changed as and when required, negating the need for a qualified electrician every time a light needs replacing.

Development of the pendant system was at a crucial stage as Covid-19 struck and lockdown restrictions were enforced, with Andrew commenting that, “Everything fell off a cliff!” The company saw revenues fall from £15k per month, to around £500 per month and, being such a new company, Iota was unfortunate in that it was ineligible for much of the support provided by UK Government under the COVID-19 package.

Iota was, however, eligible for support under Worcestershire County Council’s Proof of Concept (POC) Fund and, during the lockdown period, was successful with a grant application of circa £15k towards development costs of the pendant system. Andrew confirmed that turnaround time from application submission to monies being received by the company was around four weeks, potentially the Council’s quickest grant claim to date, providing a welcome injection of capital into the business at a time when sales were seriously impacted by the pandemic.

"The POC grant could not have been more timely, the funding allowed us to continue development activities during lockdown, including production of prototypes, development of the software systems to run the lighting, and purchasing of tooling kits, including a 3D printer and a CNC machine.”

Facilitated by the POC funding, Andrew is on track to launch the innovative lighting system by the end of July 2020 and, with customer projects already booked in to receive the system, the company is forecasting sales of between £30k and £40k for the financial year, sales which will go some way to rebalancing the books following the economic and financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Andrew concluding by stating that:

“The imminent launch of the new lighting system makes us optimistic about the coming months, something that would have been very hard to say at the start of the lockdown period.

Worcestershire County Council support has been highly beneficial for Iota to this point and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the Council post COVID-19.”

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