Sir James Dyson is the inventor, engineer and industrialist for whom failure was never an option. Born in 1947 in Norfolk, England, he attended the Byam Shaw School of Art before studying furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art, London. In the early-1980s, he determined to unite engineering and design. He worked for five years testing over 5,000 prototypes of a bagless vacuum cleaner, the G-Force, which harnessed centrifugal forces. He established Dyson in 1993 and the success of his unique dual cyclone technology propelled the company’s turnover to around GBP 1.7 billion in 2015, reaching into 75 markets globally and holding 8,000 patents.
Dyson famously says that, “We solve the problems others ignore.” He adds that, “We engineer better technology and then explain why ours is better. The impossible spurs us on.” The quest to improve the function and design of everyday products is the backbone of Dyson’s vision and it drives the unparalleled growth of the business. The company continually crafts new designs, everything from cordless vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, hand dryers, humidifiers and the humble hair dryer have received Dyson’s Midas touch. In 2015, Dyson launched 17 new products in 5 categories and sold 10 million machines globally, which is projected to rise to 25 million by 2020. Dyson explains that, “By ramping up our investment in technology and expanding research and development we are developing machines that perform better and disrupt the status quo.” Speed, efficiency, intelligence and environmental impact are the watch words at Dyson’s headquarters in Malmesbury, UK, which considers its 7,000 global employees to be part of its self-styled family business.
But, like fellow visionaries such as Bill Gates, Dyson is not simply content to sell a product. He intends to have a hand in guiding the future of consumer technology as the UK’s largest investor in robotics and he aims to invest in the future of engineering by tackling a dearth of skilled engineers. “We put faith in young bright minds—our average age is twenty six,” Dyson says of his staff. Opening in 2017, the Dyson Institute will invest £15 million over the next five years to teach undergraduate engineering degrees alongside real-world jobs at Dyson’s Research and Development campus in Wiltshire. This is intended to be an alternative to the traditional degree and the students will earn a salary throughout their education. This is a pragmatic solution that is typical of Dyson and which offers a brilliant solution to an existing problem, and one that might just produce the James Dyson of the next generation.