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WITH TARGETTI LIGHTING CULTURE IS “MADE IN ITALY”
He has been at the head of the family business for over a decade: in 1997 Lorenzo Targetti became General Manager of the eponymous company, a major global player in the indoor and outdoor architectural lighting sector. The company makes and markets over 3000 products: electrical lighting systems and appliances which set themselves apart for their ability to combine technology and design, and whose quality is exemplified by their ability to fit into any architectural context. Such are the business credentials which have allowed Targetti to establish several partnerships with prestigious names in architecture (from Foster to Toyo Ito) as well as with leading Italian and global brands (among which Fiat, Lancia, Celine, McDonald’s) - not to mention the numerous projects of excellence of the past few years, from Michelangelo’s David to the Vienna Opera House.
We asked Lorenzo Targetti, recent winner of the Ernst & Young «entrepreneur of the Year» Prize 2007, how the company changes since he became General Manager. In a few words, how did you manage to innovate your family business (created 80 years ago and which was even quoted for a time in the Italian Stock Exchange) without distorting its character?
During the past decade the company, founded by my grandfather Sankey eighty years ago has undergone remarkable changes: our turnover is twenty times what it was in 1997; our direct presence on the global marketplace has gone from two to fifty countries; the number of employees has grown from 100 to 1,600. What has not changed, on the other hand, is the company’s DNA, the management style and the sense of belonging and participation which us apart in terms of professional approach.
The added value of your design is obviously crucial in order to compete on international markets, where you position yourselves – in Europe alone – as the third player in the indoor and outdoor architectural lighting space.
Overall, what are the features of the demand in your business niche and what aspects of Targetti’s solutions are most successful?
The key to our success is in the balance we achieved between certain fundamental variables which are usually hard to reconcile, such as a product’s technical performance and aesthetic value. The recognised value of our fixtures is not, however, based solely on a fortunate union of form and function: as much attention is paid to the architectural use of light, and to its application features. None of Targetti's products are simply born to be beautiful or perform a function: our R&D department designs lighting systems keeping in mind the needs of architects, lighting designers, corporate clients and end users. Targetti is the only company in its sector to invest 3% of its turnover in research and development.
Which have been your best-selling, most successful products over the years?
During its eighty years of activity, the company literally wrote the history of lighting design, technology, and culture: the first ceiling luminaire, the first downlight, the first professional metal halide projector for indoor lighting, the first and most copied self-supporting lighting system («Structura»), the first open low voltage lighting system («Structurella»), and the innovative system «Mondial F1» - winner of the Golden Compass award in 1998 - were all created by Targetti. In addition, overthe past few years, thanks to a constant investment of 3% of our turnover in research and development, we perfected highly innovative patents for reflectors (featuring the exclusive “Scratch Proof” treatment), fixture cooling systems (featuring the “Cool Touch” system), and professional optics, created and developed within Targetti’s Photometric Laboratory. This is the only in-house laboratory to be run directly by a university – Florence’s Engineering Faculty. A recent addition born of Targetti’s partnership with DuPont, «Pura» is the first fixture without lamp, and at the same time a lamp without fixture. It is also the most important innovation of its kind in terms of lamps since Edison.
Which of Targetti’s particular features allow the company to compete at its best in the export arena, where you are present in more than 90 countries? Furthermore, what are your strategies to safeguard your presence in foreign markets?
We pay very close attention to our products’ entire distribution and promotion chain. In a sector like ours, in which client service is a crucial competitive issue, it is essential to be able to directly manage the professionals offering that service: It is impossible to delegate this task. This is why we choose, as much as possible, to act in the markets through our own organisations. It is only in those countries where risk factors or a limited economic performance prevent us from accessing the market directly that we use franchising agents or distributors. In any case we firmly believe that it is impossible to compete abroad without seriously investing in a direct market presence.
Your business model has to reconcile added technological value and stylish appeal – it cannot therefore be separated from the design factor, especially in the area of indoor and outdoor architectural lighting. What is the role of your engineers, designers and architects in your business model, and how much are sector operators involved in the creative process and market launch of new solutions?
Technological and manufacturing innovation is a key element of our entrepreneurship, but our management is also well aware that it cannot truly innovate on its own. Targetti is therefore open not only to partnerships with academia or with scientific researchers, but also to new horizontal and uncharted challenges: one of the most significant products of the past few years, «Aria», for example, was inspired by the works of the great American artist James Turrell, with whom Targetti had the privilege of working a few years ago at the time of his great installation of coloured and dynamic lights on the façade of Vienna’s MAK. At other times, products are born of prestigious collaborations with designers and from specially commissioned works: such was the case, for example, of the lighting system exclusively designed for Leonardo da Vinci’s Cenacolo, or of the newly conceived fluorescent fixtures created with Norman Foster for his extraordinary McLaren Technology Center project. .