Brent Clark

With a degree in materials science from Northwestern University, a lengthy tenure at Hewlett-Packard in its optoelectronics division, and 15 years in the wireless and communications arena, Mike Watson, vice president of product strategy at Cree, is well positioned to see lighting through its analog-to-digital transformation. “I love transforming markets,” he says. Seeing that goal through means delivering value without compromising lighting quality and performance. A challenging task, but one that Watson believes the lighting industry is ready to embrace.

What is the catalyst that moves markets to embrace different paradigms?
It’s a simple equation; value equals benefit minus cost. As long as your value is greater than what you had before, then there’s a reason to consider change.

Is there a text that’s influenced your thinking about lighting and its business practices?
I’m more affected by things that are tangible and visible. I am enamored with just listening to how light is viewed by people that aren’t in the lighting industry.

What makes a great piece of lighting equipment?
It’s a hard question because every consumer has a different reason for what they believe is a great piece of lighting equipment.

What do you consider innovation in lighting?
Anything that can improve the aesthetic, the performance, the purpose, or the cost of lighting in a way that adds value to the user.

With the arrival of LEDs, how is industry conversation changing?
It’s gone from almost complete resistance to solid-state lighting to foregone acceptance of LED lighting as certainly the immediate and foreseeable future. And there’s room for the conversation to move faster and go even deeper.

What has distinguished Cree’s approach to solid-state lighting from its competitors?
We don’t have to worry about protecting a legacy technology. Consequently, we want the world to switch [to LED] at a different pace than our competitors want the world to switch.

At what point do you see solid-state lighting becoming a legacy technology?
We desperately want to have that problem because then it means you’re successful in changing the world. If LEDs are able to achieve 5 percent to 10 percent market penetration, it’s foreseeable in the next five to seven years.