In the 1980s, Ultralite, a Sydney-based manufacturer of energy-efficient lighting products, was an organisation ahead of its time.
The company had already started developing the electronic ballast that provides a consistent electricity flow to fluorescent lamps, conserving energy in homes and businesses.
The Ultralite ballast consumes less than five per cent of the energy that powers the lamps, considerably lower than the up to 30 per cent consumed by traditional iron-core ballasts.
In April 1989, the Australian Government awarded Ultralite $637,500 through a dollar-for-dollar Discretionary Grant to help set up a research and development program to further develop and refine its energy saving technology. This funding enabled the company to make three major technical breakthroughs that have contributed significantly to its growth.
Ultralite developed a unique circuit designed to prolong the life of the filaments – the thin wires that heat up to create light inside a fluorescent tube.
The company also developed improved control of the electrical current that flows through a fluorescent lamp, prolonging both the life of the lamp and the ballast, and technology that enabled the electronic ballast to operate with a high-power factor, reducing the amount of power wastage that occurs with low-power factor products such as the iron-core ballast.
The company patented these advances, along with nine others, in the following years.
Electrical engineer Siung Yang, who built the world's first digital computer control system for a steel slab reheat furnace for BHP in 1967, founded Ultralite in 1986.
Today, the company has grown to be a world leader in developing electronic energy saving lamps, electronic ballasts, LED drivers, LED lighting, high bay lighting, T5 luminaires and street lighting.
Ultralite's products, which are now manufactured in three – soon to be four – Ultralite-owned and operated factories in China, are exported to over 30 overseas markets and use at least 50 per cent less energy than conventional lights. The company's research team has developed products that use up to 90 per cent less energy than traditional lights, providing the same or improved output.
"Over the past 25 years, our focus hasn't changed," says Tony Peardon, Marketing Director. "We care about the environment and want to keep developing products that contribute to lowering global carbon dioxide emissions."
"As a result of the innovation made possible with the assistance of the R&D Start Grant, Ultralite has grown from a small factory in Sydney's southern suburbs to three factories in China, with a fourth very large LED dedicated facility currently under construction," says Peardon.
"In terms of market development, more than 30 countries have been supplied with products from the Ultralite range, up from just one market prior to 1989."