CHARENTON-LE-PONT, France—EssilorLuxottica (Reuters: ESLX.PA) said Monday that it has created a dedicated innovation center in France to reinforce its expertise and expand its capabilities in electrochromic and smart eyewear technologies. Leveraging more than 10 years of research and development in this field, the company said it intends to accelerate its initiatives to address consumers’ evolving needs and fully capture the potential of this fast-growing wearables segment. (Note that “electrochromism” is an automatic change in the tint of the lens powered electronically and triggered by a signal generated by the frame to activate the electrochromic dyes in the lens.)

The newly created Smart Eyewear Technologies Center—which is located within the company’s industrial facility in Dijon, France—will coordinate the relevant R&D and industrialization sites, based in Toulouse and Créteil, France, and collaborate closely with the R&D teams based in Agordo, Italy, according to the announcement.

Bringing together more than 50 leading experts, the new center also will enable EssilorLuxottica to cover the entire value chain, from upstream research to production. EssilorLuxottica will be in a unique position to combine unparalleled agility with the scale, engineering capabilities and resources of a leader bringing together the best of lens technologies and frames design, the announcement stated.

The facilities are expected to be operational by the end of 2021, with the launch of the first products in the near future.
“On the back of a decade of research and development around smart eyewear, we are accelerating our investments and reinforcing our capacity to bring digital technology into eyewear, in the service of good vision,” Francesco Milleri and Paul du Saillant, CEO and deputy CEO of EssilorLuxottica, respectively, said in the announcement. “At EssilorLuxottica, we are convinced that advanced optical functions in lenses will be instrumental to advancing our mission to help people to see more, be more and live life to its fullest. We now look forward to showcasing our first innovation in the segment of active products as EssilorLuxottica in the coming months.”

This new facility will complement the company’s global R&D and innovation network across all geographies, the company noted.
As part of this new innovation center, EssilorLuxottica will earmark significant investments for the Dijon site to reinforce its teams and equipment, with the recruitment of additional team members by the end of the year and the expansion of the existing site, including the creation of a high-grade clean room.
As a pioneer in electrochromic and smart eyewear technologies, the company has built partnerships with public organizations, including the French National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique – CNRS) and the University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom. Several important co-developments with private actors were also launched, including the biggest firms inside digital and electronics worldwide landscape.
Industrial investment in France is key to EssilorLuxottica in leveraging its expertise as well as its production and research facilities in the country. The building of a cutting-edge prescription laboratory that will host close to 300 people by 2024 was announced at the end of last year, the company noted.

Smart eyewear is a complex product category that requires the combination of active lenses and sophisticated frames on the one hand, and electronics, sensors and software on the other along with the optical function of a lens. To harness such a sophisticated system, EssilorLuxottica is able to draw on the complementary expertise of both Essilor and Luxottica in the research, design, development, integration and production of lenses and frames, focusing on electrochromic and smart eyewear technologies.

In a related R&D effort, the first product to result from a collaboration between Israeli tech company DeepOptics and EssilorLuxottica emerged last month in the form of an adaptive focus sunglass called 32°N (pronounced 32 North), as VMAIL reported. The electronic shades are the subject of a Kickstarter campaign by DeepOptics, which ends July 15. The crowdfunding effort has blown past its initial goal of $25,000, raising just over $255,000 from nearly 1,000 contributors.