(Budapest, Hungary) — LiTraCon (Light Transmitting Concrete) has been the talk of the international design and architectural scene in the last few years. The product is a translucent combination of optical fibres and fine concrete. At the end of 2008 the Hungarian inventor of LiTraCon won a lawsuit against Germany’s HeidelbergCement, which, following unsuccessful negotiations to purchase the LiTraCon patent, simply passed off the product as its own development, using the name of the individual who led the negotiations as the inventor.
Since presenting his light transmitting concrete in 2001 LiTraCon inventor ron Losonczi has won countless prizes, including most recently the Ernst & Young Innovator Award. LiTraCon is currently produced by Losonczi’s company LiTraCon Bt in Csongrd (south Hungary). The Budapest Times spoke to Losonczi about the product.
How did you get the idea of mixing concrete with optical fibres?
While I was studying architecture I specialised in concrete. During a course in Sweden titled “Glass in architecture” I had the idea of combining the two materials.
Is the fact that LiTraCon is protected by a Swedish patent related to this stay in Sweden?
Yes, as well as the fact the Swedish state was generous enough to cover the costs of registering the patent.
Has Hungary been similarly gallant, given that LiTraCon is a ground-breaking invention?
Well I can’t claim that the Hungarian state so far has particularly made life easier for me. But to be fair, I should mention that we recently received a very large sum from the National Office for Research Development (NKFH) to support registration of the European patent. In terms of the amount, that is the largest financial injection that we have received so far.
Do you try to market LiTraCon as a special Hungarian product?
Well, since I pay my taxes here, pay my employees here and produce in Hungary with all the disadvantages that entails, LiTraCon can be described as a Hungarian product. However, I don’t think it would make sense to put a red, white and green sticker on it. The focus is on the product. People buy a product because it’s good, and not because it comes from a particular country.
Does that explain why your website currently only exists in English?
Yes, at the moment 90% of our orders come from abroad. I think it’s an ideal situation if a Hungarian company can sell its products abroad.
How did you react when you learnt that the multinational company HeidelbergCement had stolen your idea?
In summer 2007 we had a meeting at the economy ministry. The mood was very pessimistic, and the experts said that probably nothing could be done about it. However, Mihly Lantos from the Danubia patent law firm came and offered his help free of charge. He solved the case very skillfully.
In recent weeks there have been reports that the currently still very expensive LiTraCon is to be made cheaper through a simplified production procedure. Can you tell us something about this development?
What is the price of a product?
It is what customers are willing to pay. LiTraCon is popular all over the world and buyers pay our prices. That’s why we don’t intend to offer the product at bargain basement prices. It is true, however, that we are in the process of further developing the production procedure, but I cannot say any more about that at the moment.
Where we will be able to encounter light transmitting concrete in Hungary in the near future?
Currently we have only a few orders from private customers. I’m hoping that will change and larger construction and art projects will also get in touch with us. That is, for example, an area where the state can help us.
Right now, the most spectacular application of LiTraCon is the two tonne gate of the early Christian Cella Septichora burial chamber in Pécs. In addition there is the “Europe Gate” in Komrom, a large public sculpture. In Budapest, LiTraCon so far has been used only for the newly built Corvinus University library on Czuczor utca, but I am hoping that in the future it will become more prominent in the capital.
Written by Gergely Kispl