Green lighting is the main attraction at the autumn edition of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) Hong Kong International Lighting Fair. 'Aiming to advance the progress of green lighting, and due to the fact that many countries and regions are focusing on energy efficient lighting, the fair will present green lighting products to the worldwide attendees,' said Raymond Yip, assistant executive director of HKTDC. The four-day fair is being held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai from today until Friday. There are 1,780 exhibitors from 31 countries and regions, up from 1,572 last year. First-time exhibitors are from Hungary, Poland, New Zealand and Brazil. Recent research by HKTDC emphasises the importance of environmentally friendly lighting products, stating that lighting is the first target for green reforms in many countries, including the mainland. The National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance last year launched a campaign on the mainland to subsidise and endorse the use of 150 million energy efficient light bulbs. It offered subsidies of 30 per cent on wholesale purchases and of 50 per cent on retail sales. In the selection of environmentally friendly products, LED lighting is an important highlight for both exhibitors and organisers. Exhibitors, such as Osram Opto Semiconductors Asia, said that the popularity of LED lighting not only lay in the fact that it was advertised by governments around the world as energy efficient, but was also because of the lifespan of the products. 'Compared to other lighting products, LED products have a longer life of about 50,000 hours, which is an attraction to most consumers,' said Cheng Kai-chong, Osram's marketing director for Asia-Pacific. LED products offer a wider range of colours that provide more flexibility for designs. The global shipment of LED street lights is expected to reach 2.1 million systems this year. An LED Lighting Zone at the fair aims to advance the progress of environmentally friendly lighting by showcasing more than 440 LED companies from Belize, the mainland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Britain. A symposium on LED lighting applications and standardisation will be held on Thursday. HKTDC's research also indicated that cold cathode fluorescent lamps had the potential to become 'the next-generation light source if a common interface standard could be agreed on'. This kind of lighting is normally used as a back-light source in liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions, notebook displays and computer monitors. Apart from the LED Lighting Zone, there are seven other zones featuring commercial lighting, green lighting, household lighting, outdoor lighting, lighting accessories, parts and components, lighting management, design and technology, and trade associations and publications. The lighting fair is in its 11th year, and has built a reputation as one of the most significant lighting fairs in Asia. 'The Hong Kong International Lighting Fair is one of the most important fairs for our company because of its outstanding reputation, and we consider it the top fair in Asia,' Cheng said. Companies attend the fair rather than similar events on the mainland because of the better protection of their products under intellectual property rights in Hong Kong. 'In the past, we would join the fairs in Guangzhou, but our products kept on being copied and that wouldn't happen in Hong Kong,' said Dorothy Wong, event manager of Neonlite Electronic and Lighting (HK). Although the fair is reputable, Wong said that the company would only use this exhibition to source customers in Asia and would attend other lighting fairs, including the one in Frankfurt, to source international clients. Since the end of last year, all types of businesses have been affected by the economic meltdown, and the lighting industry was no exception. However, some lighting companies claim that their business hasn't been affected as much as other industries. 'Our company wasn't affected that much compared to [some in] the finance and banking industry. We are even launching a new product line soon,' Wong said. Special measures are being taken despite claims that business has not dropped off much. Increasing value-added services is one of the steps being taken to maintain customers and source new ones. 'Instead of decreasing the costs of our products, we are providing more value-added services, such as technical support and customer services, for our clients,' Cheng said. To face tough competition in the industry, the trend in the local lighting companies is to increase attention on product features and designs. According to the HKTDC, Hong Kong companies have been subjected to challenges from other Asian suppliers, particularly Taiwan, for medium-to-high-end items and Southeast Asian countries for simple low-end products that involve less technological and design input. Besides improving features and designs, Hong Kong companies have also introduced new product lines to attract more customers and to respond quickly to customers' tastes. This has been among the keys to their success, according to HKTDC.