International Day of Light: Celebrating our heroes of lighting


    May 14, 2021


    Signify celebrates some of its lighting innovators and unsung heroes who have contributed to the world of lighting and its impact on society


    Sunday, May 16 is the International Day of Light (IDL). This global UNESCO supported initiative is a focal point for the continued appreciation of light in science, culture, art, education and sustainable development.

    The day is celebrated on May 16, as this marks the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960, by the American physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman. The laser is an excellent example of how a lighting innovation can yield extraordinary benefits for society and improve lives.

    To support this year’s IDL theme of “improving the means of outreach and interaction between science and society,” we’re celebrating some of our people who have made a difference in lighting and to people’s lives. Some of our ‘heroes of lighting’ pioneered innovations and breakthrough technologies. Others have contributed in different ways to the world of lighting and its impact on society.

    Every one of our heroes pointed out that they were part of a team. They echo the sentiment of the author Ken Blanchard, who dryly noted, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” That said, here is the first of our blogs calling out some of our amazing people. We pay tribute to them on our social media channels starting on May 16.

    Hero for being a member of the team that won the

    Hans Nikol, Head of Open Innovation
    Name: Hans Nikol, Head of Open Innovation
    Years at Signify: 25

    A Signify team (then the lighting division of Philips) entered a US government-sponsored initiative to develop a quality energy efficient replacement to the much loved but energy inefficient incandescent light bulb. What was developed at breakneck speed transformed the world of lighting forever and continues to benefit society and the environment.


    “I remember it vividly. It was the first week of January, 2009, when Coen Liedenbaum informed us about the L-Prize - the US Department of Energy competition aimed at spurring lighting companies to develop a quality LED energy efficient replacement to the 60W incandescent light bulb using less than 10 W. The prize was $10 million!

    “The first project leader, Simon Kuppens, who’s still in the company, kicked off a project that eventually involved a team of nearly 200 people across 13 time zones. We had to produce not one but 2,000 bulbs that met exact and specific criteria, which in those days also meant establishing a completely new supply chain. It was seat-of-the pants groundbreaking stuff. But we did it and won – paving the way to the world’s first commercial retrofit LED light bulbs. I’m so proud to have been part of this amazing team effort.”

    Hero for introducing Philips solar streetlights to off-grid villages

    Shiv Seth
    Name: Shiv Seth, Global Product Manager & Business Development – Solar
    Years at Signify: 10
    Philips solar streetlights are now present in more than 40,000 off-grid villages in India. This highly energy efficient, low-cost lighting is transforming the safety and security of communities by harnessing the power of the sun.

    “We spent a lot of time listening to our customers before developing products to satisfy their needs and fit their budget. The transformative effect is amazing. After installing these lights, women were freely walking after dark and working late in the evening. Kids can play safely, and people can enjoy social gatherings. It was like a dream come true for all.

    “For me, this is a game changer. We unlocked the extraordinary potential of solar street lighting by illuminating thousands of villages and provided clean energy for those in need. At the same time, solar reduces carbon emissions. It's a win-win.

    “I'm inspired greatly by our lights being the only source of light in many flood-affected areas. This gives me a purpose to illuminate such places, to improve the lives of people and give them hope. Such is the power of our solar lighting.”

    Hero for co-creating Philips Hue

    George Yianni, Head of Technology for Philips Hue
    Name: George Yianni, Head of Technology for Philips Hue
    Years at Signify: 14

    Philips Hue is the world’s leading smart lighting system for the home. Since its introduction in 2012, what started as a bridge and two bulbs has evolved into an ecosystem of bulbs, luminaires, switches, sensors and apps. It's changed forever how people experience light.

    “Philips Hue came from a testing shortcut. The initial idea was just to use the then-new iPhone to mockup prototypes for user testing for Philips LivingColors’ remote controls.

    “That decision led to an exciting result: we found we had created a better way to control lights. We knew we were onto something big when Apple agreed to sell Hue light bulbs in their stores. That’s when we began to understand that we weren’t working on a simple lighting product, we were creating a paradigm shift in how we interact with light in our homes.

    “With Philips Hue, we've changed how people engage with lighting and we help them live better, healthier, happier lives. And that's the role technology should have – it should help make people's lives better.”

    Heroes for their contribution to contextually aware smart lighting

    Meg Smith, Product Marketeer and Jin Yu, Scientist
    Name: Jin Yu, Scientist, Meg Smith, Product Marketeer
    Years at Signify: 9 (Jin), 12 (Meg)
    Contextually aware lighting is still in its infancy. It’s lighting that can automatically adapt to its environment and people in a space, providing perfect lighting conditions for any task.

    Meg Smith said, “Working at Signify enabled me to contribute to what I believe will become the future of lighting in the workplace. My vision is for an office that truly supports people’s wellbeing and productivity with lighting so smart that it’s ‘contextually aware’ of the environment and individuals in a room. Using IoT sensors and AI machine learning it will deliver light that’s perfect for the task, activity, and sensory stimulus of an individual or team.

    “Contextually aware lighting is a massive departure from the ‘one size fits all approach’ which characterizes most of today’s office lighting. My colleague Jin Yu, who is the brains behind the algorithm, and I were fortunate to work together on this project. I hope that our research will one day feature in the innovations of tomorrow and people’s lives will be better for it.”

    Hero for improving everyday life with NatureConnect lighting

    Inge van de Wouw, Designer
    Name: Inge van de Wouw, Designer
    Years at Signify: 12 years

    NatureConnect is ‘lighting inspired by nature’. It brings the benefits of natural light indoors, reconnecting us with the constant cycles and variations of nature for comfortable, engaging and attractive indoor environments.

    “My inspiration comes from nature. Daylight is something so natural, that often we take it for granted. But light is as fundamental to life as food, water and air. It has a huge impact on our mood, energy levels, comfort, quality of sleep and our health and wellbeing in general.

    “Using that knowledge, I am passionate about improving everyday life with light. For me, the sky is NOT the limit!”


    Watch out for our next blog featuring more of our lighting heroes.

    About the author:

    Neil Pattie

    Neil Pattie

    Head of Corporate Content, Signify

    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Integrated Communications
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17

    About Signify


    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. In 2023, we had sales of EUR 6.7 billion, approximately 32,000 employees and a presence in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index since our IPO for seven consecutive years and have achieved the EcoVadis Platinum rating for four consecutive years, placing Signify in the top one percent of companies assessed. News from Signify can be found in the Newsroom, on X, LinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors is located on the Investor Relations page.

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