SMA: Strong push for innovation in Germany

At the same time SMA has asked the German government to provide more support for innovation.

"I estimate a 40-50% collapse in the European PV market this year," said SMA management board spokesman Pierre-Pascal Urbon.

Haphazard energy policies and uncertainty around the ongoing EU trade cases are negative influences which raised the importance of non-EU markets for a company like SMA.

As a result the Niestetal based company is forecasting a rise in non-EU revenues from 56.3% to 70% in 2012.

The solar equipment company already boasts 21 foreign branches and Mr Urbon views China, Japan, India, Thailand and the U.S. – where SMA claims to have more than 50% of the utility scale inverter market – as critically important.

Despite such progress in the U.S., however, 2013 is expected to be a difficult year, as Urbon revealed in an interview with pv magazine.

With a turnover of between €900 million (US$1.17 billion) and €1.3 billion, a break even situation is the best case scenario – 2012 saw €1.5 billion in sales.

Given that financial backdrop, a further reduction in the SMA workforce, which has already seen job cuts, looks on the cards.

Urbon said investment in product innovation is important for the company to remain competitive through difficult economic times and that is the reason SMA increased its research and development budget this year by 20% to €120 billion.

The development of a new generation of inverters is among the projects in the R&D pipeline.

"From the political side I am awaiting more support for companies that invest in innovation," added Mr Urbon.

For the full interview, see the May edition of pv magazine.