Celestica, Flextronics embrace cleantech, drive its growth

My Clean Break column today begins with a short look at Toronto-based Cavet Technologies, which announced this morning a partnership with contract manufacturer Celestica. Cavet has developed an intelligent lighting controller (click here to see video, and here to read report from consultancy Kachan & Co.) that is easy to install, is relatively inexpensive, and by reducing energy consumption in fluorescent lighting systems by 30 per cent can have a payback of less than 18 months. The controller, called LumiSmart, is aimed at large buildings that would have lighting “zones” composed of up to 140 light fixtures. It works by pulsing the power supply in a way that doesn’t affect light quality but reduces the amount of electricity going to the lights. What’s interesting is that Cavet, which is just ramping up for commercial sales, has already struck¬†a manufacturing agreement with Celestica.

Celestica, like all big electronic manufacturing service providers, operates on scale. It makes BlackBerry devices for Research In Motion, routers for big network equipment companies, and other “electronic” gear in the thousands — the tens of thousands. It has traditionally looked away from small startups. “Come back to us when you can place a big enough order,” is the kind of response Celestica would give. But the company, as well as rivals such as Flextronics, are now taking a different approach. Instead of sitting back and waiting for volume to come, they’re striking deals with promising new clean technology companies early on as part of a strategy to drive volume. Cavet’s partnership with Celestica, in this sense, can be considered a boost of confidence in its technology.

This is an interesting trend, and one that could do a lot to take otherwise niche cleantech products and turn them into high-volume global successes. If you read my Toronto Star column, please ignore the use of the word “revolutionary” in the headline. I do use the word, but through a more¬†skeptical lens.