Billionaire inventor James Dyson: Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore

Why we invent in Britain, but build in Singapore

James Dyson

Published at 12:01AM, February 26 2013

Singapore offers skills, location and a supply chain. The UK’s future lies in ideas and patents

For the past 15 years, Dyson’s highly-skilled engineers have been developing a tiny revolution in our laboratories. It is a new motor a third the size of a traditional one, but which can spin 100,000 times a minute — five times faster than a Formula One engine. Making 6,000 adjustments a second for optimal performance, the Dyson digital motor can supercharge prosaic machines.

At Dyson we invest heavily in our ideas and develop all of our technology in Britain: All our research takes place in Malmesbury where we employ 850 world-class design engineers and scientists — about a third of them recent graduates.

Our new motor performs like no other — and because we are developing it in our own laboratories, with our own people, no one else can get their hands on it (despite trying!).

This is not only good for Dyson, but also for Britain. The intellectual property is owned here and all the profits will flow back to the United Kingdom where we pay more than 85 per cent of our global tax.

But last week, Dyson opened a new £150 million (S$281.4 million) motor manufacturing facility in Singapore. Why?

Savvy governments understand the need to support advances like our new motor and to create incentives for companies to develop them. They also value the highly skilled workforce able to develop them — 40 per cent of graduates are engineers, versus 2 per cent in Britain. They realise that the more successful the company, the more they export, bringing more revenue into the country and employing more people.

And the potential for discovery at the moment is enormous, particularly in the sphere of materials. There are significant gains to be made from materials such as carbon 60 and graphene, which was discovered in Manchester. This is 40 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon.

Thankfully, Britain is moving in the right direction and there is a renewed desire to develop technology on its shores.

Prime Minister David Cameron has increased the research and development tax credit — which supports companies that take risks and invest in developing ideas for the future — to 225 per cent. As a result, patent applications rose 29 per cent in 2011 and investors have reacted positively.

But Britain still has a shortage of engineers — it has a 60,000 engineering deficit. Who will develop the ideas?


Britain is not the only country that is creating incentives for invention — and companies such as ours are in global competition. Singapore understands this and rewards investment in research and development with a thumping 400 per cent tax credit. The country supports and values inventiveness and backs it up with an education system that encourages ingenuity — they have plenty of world-class engineers.

Bereft of natural resources, Singapore realises that human resources and ideas are its trump cards.

The result is a buoyant economy, with highly inventive companies such as Rolls-Royce knocking at its door.

Building a complex motor such as the one that Dyson is developing, with minute tolerances, requires the precision of a fully automated production line. The highly-skilled workforce, the tax incentives and the nearby supply chain make Singapore appealing for us.

We will make six million motors this year; increasing our production capacity by 100 per cent — a necessary jump to meet rising demand, particularly from Japan and America. We source the motor’s 22 components from across Asia, so it makes little sense to ship them to Britain, only to export the finished motors back again. So Singapore is the obvious place for production.

Britain’s focus should be on generating ideas and patenting them — that is the high-value part of the process and the one that will earn this country a competitive advantage. Britons must focus on being the best problem solvers in the world, developing technology and then exporting it.

And for this Britain needs high quality engineers, backed up by supportive government incentives. The country has the foundations in place — but continuing government support, both through the education system and tax system, is essential.

Sir James Dyson is the founder of Dyson, the technology company. This commentary first appeared in British daily The Times.

Is the start-up nation sustainable? Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and that is no longer enough, argues Roy Keidar

Is the start-up nation sustainable?

Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and that is no longer enough, argues Roy Keidar.

26 February 13 12:59, Roy Keidar

The book “Start-up Nation” is very popular among American Jews. The idea that a small place like Israel, poor in natural resources and facing major security and diplomatic challenges, is number one in the world in start-ups per capita is a source of pride for Jews and Israelis, and an inspiration for other nations. But many people have begun to ask: In view of the processes underway in Israeli society and culture on one hand, and global trends on the other, is the “Start-up Nation” sustainable?

Israel’s success story is interesting and unique. It begins with the need of a society of immigrants to survive in the region. This need gave rise to technological innovations, such as drip irrigation, solar energy, and a slew of defense products developed in Israel. The adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention” was realized in Israel.

But it is not enough. Over the years, we have created a winning combination of scientific ability and an Israeli tendency to take risks. This combination was also the result of high-quality Russian-speaking immigrants, which brought to Israel thousands of scientists, and skilled manpower who were discharged from the army’s technology units.

Following Israel’s economic changes of the 1980s, the opening to the global environment and foreign capital, and access to overseas scientific and technological know-how, the country discovered the formula, which gave rise to the “Start-up Nation” model for the 2000s. And this without even mentioning Israeli genius.

But in the past decade, there have been signs that the model is becoming frayed, especially when global trends and their effect on Israel are examined. The world is competing for innovation and creativity. Multinationals aggressively buy talent, and skilled personnel move from country to country following financial incentives.

Governments provide huge budgets and tax breaks for R&D to create strong national economic clusters. Former growth engines, such as information, computers and telecommunications (ICT) are giving way to new technologies, such as self-production and 3D printers, which require different specializations and preparations to adapt the economy.

Given Israel’s security and economic challenges, it must be the world’s scientific-technological innovation spearhead, since this is the country’s largest resource and the only non-perishable one. The assumption that what worked in the past will also work in the future, and that the market should be allowed to do its thing cannot serve as a working assumption. The world is changing, and Israel must adapt and renew.

How can Israel create the conditions to remain the world’s scientific-technological innovation spearhead? The answer cannot be found in a book or plan, nor can it only depend on the government, the education system, or the private market. The way to be the spearhead of innovation begins and ends with a common vision which sets innovation as the goal and calls on all parties to adapt their operating strategies to achieving this vision, which does not currently exist in Israel.

Israeli policy talks in terms of growth, not leadership, and in the 21st century that is no longer enough.

The author is the CEO of the Reut Institute

Ancient King’s Hat Holds Clues To Korean Alphabet

Ancient King’s Hat Holds Clues To Korean Alphabet

Agence France Presse | Feb. 27, 2013, 6:18 AM | 937 | 1


Park Ji-Hwan/AFP

A hat which belonged to South Korea’s most revered monarch King Sejong has been recovered more than 500 years after it was looted by Japanese invaders, a senior scholar said Wednesday.

Apart from its intrinsic value as an historical relic, the discovery has thrilled scholars after documents were found stitched inside the hat carrying explanations of King Sejong’s greatest legacy — the Hangeul alphabet.

The monarch known as Sejong the Great ruled from 1418-1450. His reign had a profound impact on Korean history with the introduction of the Hangeul phonetic alphabet that replaced classical Chinese characters.

Hangeul vastly increased literacy — previously restricted to the top scholarly class — and remains the official script of both South and North Korea. Read more of this post

Japanese Robot Suit Approved For Worldwide Rollout

Japanese Robot Suit Approved For Worldwide Rollout

Agence France Presse | Feb. 27, 2013, 7:35 AM | 2,355 | 3

japan-robot-suitjapan-robot-suit-1 (1)


A robot suit that can help the elderly or disabled get around was given its global safety certificate in Japan on Wednesday, paving the way for its worldwide rollout. Read more of this post

“To be Korean is to get plastic surgery. You must do it, or young people will think you’re weird.”

Gangnam, South Korea Is Becoming The Plastic Surgery Capital Of Asia

Geoffrey CainGlobalPost | 12 minutes ago | 251 | 

A crowd of young women wait nervously in the lobby of a popular plastic surgery clinic in Apgujeong, the affluent neighborhood at the heart of Gangnam.

Photographs of Korean pop singers and actresses line the walls, winsome customers who smile next to their cosmetic surgeons.

“It’s painful, but I really want a face like those Korean actress girls,” says a Chinese patient leaving a check-up — with her nose wrapped in a surgical bandage.

Many customers have traveled to this neighborhood — home to some 400 cosmetic surgery hospitals — all the way from ChinaJapan and Southeast Asia. They’re hoping to take home a little “Gangnam style” for themselves.

That isn’t just a Psy reference. Gangnam is popular from an Asia-wide trend made famous over the past decade: the popularity of Korean television shows and pop singers known as the “Korean Wave.”

Plastic surgery is a lucrative trade in South Korea, with citizens edging out Greece, Italy and the US as the most cosmetically enhanced people in the world. Read more of this post

The coming R&D crash

The coming R&D crash

By Brad Plumer , Updated: February 26, 2013

One of the few things Republicans and Democrats have been able to agree on in recent years is that the government should be spending more on basic scientific research — the sort of research that, in the past, has played a role in everything from mapping the human genome to laying the groundwork for the Internet.

“Government funding for basic science has been declining for years,” Mitt Romney wrote in his 2010 book No Apology. “It needs to grow instead.” In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama sounded a similar note: “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race.”

So it’s notable that the exact opposite is, in fact, about to occur. Thanks to budget pressures and the looming sequester cuts, federal R&D spending is set to stagnate in the coming decade. The National Institutes of Health’s budget is scheduled to drop 7.6 percent in the next five years. Research programs in energy, agriculture and defense will decline by similar amounts. NASA’s research budget is on pace to drop to its lowest level since 1988.

As a result, scientists and other technology analysts are warning that the United States could soon lose its edge in scientific research — and that the private sector won’t necessarily be able to pick up the slack. Read more of this post

Why language is the key to winning India’s mobile market

Why language is the key to winning India’s mobile market

By Leo Mirani — February 26, 2013

“I’ve only just returned from work.”Reverie Language Technologies

“I’ll be late coming home today”Panini Keypad

MUMBAI—India has the world’s largest mobile phone market after China. Yet the amount of money mobile networks make per user is among the lowest in the world: around $2 per month. Chinese carriers such as China Mobile make five times as much. AT&T rakes in $65 per user per month in the US.

The most obvious reason is that Indian carriers operate on razor-thin margins, charging customers $0.01 per minute. Smartphone users spend more butpenetration remains low. Half of Indian smartphone owners don’t have a data plan anyway, according to Prashant Singh of Nielsen. But there are other things that make India unique.

Unlike many markets, Indian carriers derive most of their revenues the old-fashioned way: from people making calls. Non-voice revenue is just 11% of the total. That’s about half as much as in Britain and just under a third of American and Chinese operators’ non-voice revenues (pdf). Only one in two Indians send text messages, much lower than the 62% in its class of what the World Bank defines aslower-middle-income countries. Considering the zeal with which Indians have taken to mobile phones, what explains their reluctance to embrace their use for other things?

A big obstacle is language (bhasha or vasha in Hindi). Most phones sold in India come with English-language operating system software. Despite India’s reputation as an Anglophone nation, only a tenth of its 1.2 billion people count English as their first, second or third language. In any case, one out of four Indians cannot read or write. But unlike linguistically homogeneous Russia or China, India’s 22 official languages (and several hundred unofficial ones) in 11 different scripts make it a difficult market to crack. Read more of this post

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