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President of Intra Lighting Marino Furlan

Starting your own business can be stress on stilts at the best of times.
To do so as your country Yugoslavia goes through major upheaval and breakup reducing your home market overnight from over 22 million to around 2 million requires unshakeable faith, grit, determination and a singular vision.

 

Marino and Marjeta Furlan, founders of Intra Lighting, have surely demonstrated these strengths in spades as they celebrate 30 years in business, a manufacturing plant in Slovenia, one in Croatia, another being commissioned, a workforce that’s grown to 350 and Intra Lighting’s products being specified in 68 countries across the globe.

The future of lighting is…brighter

Intra Lighting began life by combining the purchase of a packaging facility with the production of decorative lighting evolving from Marjeta’s sculptures, often created as gifts for friends. Over the years, the focus became firmly fixed on architectural lighting design and manufacture but, just as the company found its feet, a second major setback hit the business in the shape of the global financial crash of 2008. Like many businesses, all efforts were directed towards finding the ways to maintain cashflow and ensure survival.

Marino is sanguine about past problems and setbacks, seeing them as tests that make his business more resilient, more responsive to the market and, above all, more innovative. Understanding and innovation are key. As Marino says, ‘ Even before Covid, the world was changing and we need to accelerate the search for new ways of doing things’. He cites Tesla, describing it as ‘ a computer with a car built around it’ and sees lighting in a similar way, not just as a single or series of luminaires but as the potential conduit for services, data and positive health-giving properties. The company currently holds patents on four different LED chips that will both create and control wavelength frequencies that can and will, directly and positively, influence and affect our physical and psychological wellbeing – as well as providing world-class light.

Marino also recognises that his industry will be changed by the growth of robotic manufacture and AI. Indeed, Intra Lighting has already introduced robots to automate aspects of manufacture that reduce labour costs, improve quality and better manage complex procedure. For Marino, this will only grow and he has structured the business in anticipation. Research and development (R&D) is not only at the heart of the company, it has been divided into two areas – one for the continued evolution of Intra’s lighting solutions and another for the exploration of brand new ideas. Marino recognises that the best innovation requires the deepest understanding of people, issues and opportunities and that it takes time to build that knowledge base. At Intra, R&D is not about beating the competition – or being influenced by what the competition is doing – but in delivering the best solutions that address real and perceived need. With such an attitude, and with visionaries like Marino, it may be confidently said that the future of lighting is brighter – in terms of its role in our built environment and its technological potential.

At Intra, R&D is about delivering the best solutions that address real and perceived need.

Prefabrication and broader teamwork are another two topics that Marino sees as being vital to lighting, industry in general and to the growing imperative of sustainability. For example, Intra has worked very closely in the development of the Hotel Moxy concept, largely factory-built, and is exploring greater integration of lighting into building infrastructure. He emphasises the importance of including architects, engineers, lighting designers and other specialists into teams that will better understand human need, inform innovation and focus development. And he points to Intra Lighting’s investment in solar energy and other renewables that help his business move swiftly towards zero carbon emissions.

After 30 years in business, Marino shows no signs of lessening his involvement. Wisely, he recognises that his best skills lie in lnnovation with a keen eye on future need. So, with a new CEO in place and an enthusiastic, well-organised workforce, Marino has given himself that precious commodity essential to creativity – the time to think.

Referring to natural daylight, American architect Daniel Libeskind once said that light was the most important building material. Marino Furlan knows that, as we spend more time indoors, artificial light is equally important – the key is having the right light in the right place in the right quantity and at the right time. It can be argued that the continued evolution of lighting will require the right person to be in the right place at the right time, making the right decisions. With his vision and energy, Marino Furlan of Intra Lighting must be a contender.

This article and more are on our Fresh Magazine Issue n.6 2020