What do the employees of the Swedish embassy in Hong Kong have in common with infants in Helsingborg’s neonatal care unit, Malmö hockey players, and Lund office workers? All of them are living in BioCentric Lighting, a lighting system developed by the Lund-based company BrainLit. BrainLit wants to make people feel better when indoors by using LED lighting, sensors, and their own software to emulate natural daylight. Their work aligns with research about living creature’s circadian rhythms; research awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Research on the circadian rhythm of living creatures explains how plants, animals, and people optimize their physiology so that they are prepared for the different phases of the day. Daylight and daily sun exposure are decisive factors in daily rhythms, which influence how we sleep, feel, and perform. Yet, people increasingly spend time inside and not getting enough sunlight. This is true not only in the Nordic countries, but also in sunnier countries where people may stay in the shade in the warmest part of the day.
BrainLit was established in Lund in 2012 by Tord Wingren, who has a telecommunications background and is one of the creators behind Bluetooth. Wingren realized that over time, natural light could be recreated indoors using modern technology and, in 2013, BrainLit registered its first patent in the United States. Their goal was to develop a healthy light that learns over time what the user needs in order to live an optimal life. The idea was timely as in 2014 the Nobel Prize was awarded to researchers who succeeded in providing white light with blue LED lights and then, in 2017, to researchers behind the discovery of mechanisms behind circadian rhythm, the body’s clock.
The first BioCentric Lighting systems were installed in 2015 and 2016, for Innovation Skåne and Hotel Skansen in Båstad. Senior housing at Mårtenslund in Lund also got involved at an early stage. Now, more than 5000 people every day are living or working in environments where BrainLit’s system controls the lighting.
”Since the first system was installed, it has completely exploded and we have many exciting customer projects,” explains BrainLit’s CEO Niclas Olsson. “The thing that makes BrainLit unique is our focus on what the light generates in terms of well-being, rather than the technology itself. We see ourselves as a company that works with health and well-being, who uses light to achieve these.”
BrainLit has offices in Medicon Village’s new office building Spark where, together with the other companies in the same building, they have BioCentric Lighting. In the ceiling there are large square luminaires simulating daylight and a smaller spotlight with a warm light mimicking sunlight. The light varies throughout the day. For instance, the light may be bluer in the morning when those in the room should be more vibrant and yellower in the evening when people need to unwind. What is unique about BrainLit is that you can create light recipes for just the people who are in the room. The best light for each individual is dependent on a series of factors – such as age, origin, latitude, health status, work tasks, and individual variation.
“Since I started here, I sleep an hour less every night,” explains publicity manager Mikael Lagerwall. “Now I wake up early and I am well rested and it feels nice to know that the light we work with works.”
BrainLit’s business concept is to sell entire lighting systems, but their secret lies in their control system and software that deliver unique lighting recipes.
”We are involved in building both high-performance and healthy workplaces,” says Niclas Olsson. ”We have gotten interesting results in our installations with increasing well-being, reduced sick leave, and increased productivity.
In Helsingborg’s neonatal ward, BrainLit delivered a lighting system with weak light that is basically flicker-free so that it is possible for staff to carry out necessary work on very premature infants who must not be exposed to light. In Denmark, it was found that middle school students perform 12 percent better on math tests in BioCentric Lighting, according to a new field study by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark.
”Studies have been done in schools and you see that higher quality light makes children with ADHD more harmonious and older people with dementia or Alzheimer's sleep deeper and be calmer,” says Olsson.
The most common customers are companies with office environments, but even hospitals, shops, and professional hockey teams use BioCentric Lighting.
”There is a great interest from the sports world in what we provide,” says Niclas Olsson. ”The Malmö Redhawks have our light in their changing room and we have met with representatives from the NHL who are very interested. We even work with skiers in Finland.”
The Swedish Embassy in Hong Kong was the first installation in Asia, but now this technology has also been installed in a future lab in Singapore to evaluate it in a harsher future environment as well as in a retirement home in Bangkok to test its effect in a country where sunlight is too strong for much of the day.
Despite great international interest, the company’s strategic focus is Scandinavia.
”We are proud to be a part of the Lund community and to be located in the middle of Medicon Village right next to Ideon, Mobile Heights, and Brunnshög. It is a fantastic environment to be in. If we need to get an expert, we can find them in Inspira’s dining room or bike to one of the university’s nearby institutions.”
In recent years BrainLit has grown from seven employees to about twenty, but the company emphasizes it is important to grow at a reasonable rate.
”We see the importance of building the house from the ground up and it will be stable from the beginning. I have more than twenty years experience within MedTech globally, but I have never worked with a technology that has attracted so much interest,” says Niclas Olsson. ”We deliver health and well-being on an individual level, in an uncomplicated way. It is a great pleasure to be part of this journey!”
More about BrainLit
BrainLit works with a scientific advisory board that meets BrainLit’s team every sixth week in order to update them and answer questions so as to continue to development of the system. The board consists of chairman Klas Sjöberg, Gastro Clinic at Skåne University Hospital, Thorbjörn Laike, professor of environmental psychology at the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at LTH, Lennart Minthon, professor at Lund University’s Clinical Memory Research and MultiPark, Lars Samuelson, professor of semiconductor electronics at Lund University, and Madeleine Selvander, ophthalmologist, PhD, MSci.
The company’s largest new share issue to date was oversubscribed and raised SEK 109 million in 2019.
A subsidiary was established in the US in 2019 to support Scandinavian customers who have taken the lighting system to their US offices.
In 2016, a study showed significant improvements in sleep among school children staying in BioCentric Lighting. The study was conducted by Karin Ljungström and Stina Eriksson, students from LTH.
Researchers from Denmark’s Technical University published a study in 2020 showing significant improvement in students’ school results in mathematics when they were in BrainLit’s BioCentric Lighting.