back to article Dyson backs Britain plc with $2.5bn AI and robotics investment

Britain's most successful engineer Sir James Dyson is taking on Google and Facebook with a $2.5bn investment to turn the former RAF base at Hullavington near Malmesbury into a research campus for robotics, AI, and other advanced technology, including batteries and vision systems. The size of the planned facility dwarfs the …

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  1. Steve Button

    What about Brunel? (and dozens of others)

    Or do you mean most successful living engineer?

    Depends how you define most successful I suppose.

    1. iRadiate

      Re: What about Brunel? (and dozens of others)

      Being not dead seems a reasonable measure of success ;)

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        "Being not dead seems a reasonable measure of success ;)"

        Having a net worth in 8 or 9 digits is also pretty good*

        *Although I'd query the term "engineer." Industrial Designer certainly.

    2. woodcruft

      Re: What about Brunel? (and dozens of others)

      To mention an acknowledged lying purveyor of overpriced tat with IBK in the same sentence, makes me as someone who studied mech/man engineering and was an associate member of IMechE, want to reach for the sick bag.

      Dyson's an "industrial designer", a phrase guaranteed to make any chartered engineer shiver.

      His company's (suitably huge) marketing department is happy to throw around the term "engineer".

      When the "engineering genius" Dyson came up with his 400 quid hairdryer, his marketing droids got to work and explained to the press that the company had employed 400 "engineers" for 3 years to design a hairdryer that cost over 10 times as much as it's competitors.

      His outfit sort of reminds me of a certain company in Cupertino. The only difference being that he gouges his customers for 10x the going rate for similar crap, rather than the 2x which is customary in Cupertino.

      The idea that "4000 engineers" are going to up sticks and move down to the nether regions of Wiltshire is delusional. As is the idea of his private university educating 100s of "engineers" on the grand sum of 3 million a year donated by his company as a tax write-off.

      If I had continued with my mech/man engineering and become chartered, the last thing I would want to do is help Dyson scamming his customers when i could get 100k pa minimum doing something interesting - which would almost certainly be abroad and tax free.

      If you Brexiteers haven't noticed yet, this country doesn't have a manufacturing industry and wanking off to Sir James Dyson will only carry you so far. Stand assured, I'll be thinking of you when I move to Europe next year.

      BTW, he hates the EU because they made it the law that household vacuum cleaners can only draw 1.6KW rather than the power of a Saturn V first-stage,

      tl;dr: Try googling "asa dyson misleading" for lols.

      OT: perhaps instead of giving folks like him the moniker "Sir" we could perhaps:

      :%s/Sir/The c*nt known as/g

  2. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    Airblade, airfield, airware

    Whenever I look at a Dyson airblade fan or hand dryer, I think of the Rockwell XVF-12 VTOL jet which had airblades in its wings - it's obvious why he has now acquired an airfield. (If only).

    1. Doogie Howser MD

      Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

      Whenever I see a Dyson Airblade hand dryer in action, I think of Tommy Cooper!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

        Whenever I see a Dyson Airblade hand dryer in action I wonder where the water is going.

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

          Whenever I see a Dyson Airblade hand dryer in action I wonder where the water is going.

          Perhaps bifocals would reveal the turbid puddle beneath the dryer. They get your hands nice and dry though

          1. iansmithedi

            Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

            That's why I love their lateral thinking to the new Airblade tap.

            http://www.dyson.co.uk/hand-dryers/airblade-tap.aspx

            Joined up thinking. (And it might be quieter than the Airblade V.)

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

          Apparently across the room and splattering germs on other people.

          Using a Dyson hand dryer is like setting off a viral bomb in a bathroom

          The company also pointed to four studies suggesting that the Dyson Airblade hand dryers are hygienic. However, none of those studies looked at viral aerosols or the effects of using the Airblade to dry unclean hands, as would inevitably happen in real life usage.

          It seems some real-life testing is good and some is bad...

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

            "Apparently across the room and splattering germs on other people."

            Or you could try, well, actually washing your hands before using it...

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

              "Or you could try, well, actually washing your hands before using it..."

              Yep. Not pointing at the OP in particular, but there seems to be a lot of people, especially at motorway services who "pretend" to wash their hands by waving them near the tap, maybe even getting a little wet, then using the hand dryer.

              Worse are the places where they have both hand towels and dryers and always seem to position the dryer right over the bin full of wet paper towels!

        3. getHandle

          Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

          Whenever I see a Dyson <anything> in action I wonder where the money is going.

          Kudos to the man for putting his money where his mouth is though!

    2. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

      Whenever I look at hear a Dyson airblade fan or hand dryer, I think of the Rockwell XVF-12 VTOL jet

      FTFY

    3. Ralph B

      Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

      > Whenever I look at a Dyson airblade fan or hand dryer, I think of the Rockwell XVF-12 VTOL jet

      Me too. They both make the same amount of noise.

    4. /dev/null

      Re: Airblade, airfield, airware

      Interestingly, the XFV-12 (sic), never actually get off the ground (literally) due to incorrect calculation of internal thrust losses. I hope Dyson are better at doing hard sums.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do have to wonder at the power of the German lobby in the EU. Have you noticed when a cheap weedkiller or insecticide suddenly gets banned miraculously Bayer crop science (or other German chemical co) seems to have a new and more expensive product that it just happens to have the patent on.

    Go Jimbo !

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      ou do have to wonder at the power of the German lobby in the EU

      Do you? So long as the French get their precious farming subsidies and national champions, the Germans can have a free hand on setting rules for industry. Every other EU nation is simply a bit part player hoping to catch a few crumbs at this Franco-German bring and share.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Good for Dyson

    It looks like he's "committed to the best possible outcome for the United Kingdom following its departure from the European Union".

    Because if you're a company bidding on a government contract, it seems that this now counts as part of the bid.

    Is it legal? Probably not. At least until the shackles of the EU are thrown off...

    Firms bidding for government contracts asked if they back Brexit

  5. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Trollface

    "It currently banks £1.5bn annually."

    so about 10 cleaners worth then....

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: "It currently banks £1.5bn annually."

      once again the figures confuse me. How much cash you take to the bank has no bearing on the success of your business , unless compared with many other things - chiefly how much is coming out.

      What relevance is turnover?

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: "It currently banks £1.5bn annually."

        What relevance is turnover?

        I don't know. Perhaps you could ask those US tech giants that make no taxable profit and pay no dividends.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Must have misclicked, I seemed to have ended up at the Daily Express.

    1. SuccessCase

      I think not. The story contains references to Germans, and an ex RAF airfield and there have been no war jokes referencing the two.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Given Sir James's battles in an industrial landscape dominated by German interests…

    This is nonsense. A bit like cars or PCs, vacuum cleaners were for years sold by equating power with performance. While German manufacturers may well have lobbied effectively against changes to the model, particularly when the EU decided power limits on vacuum cleaners (along with other domestic electric appliances) were a good thing, but so did pretty much every other manufacturer. The shenanigans about vehicle emissions were even more blatant but, again, everyone else seemed happy to go along.

    Meanwhile German customers have discovered Dyson devices and seem to love them so why should Dyson try and cut itself off from this market?

    Yes, the rules aren't perfect, and they are often gamed, but as a result of them every EU household (and elsewhere because of the size of the market) now has more efficient appliances than 10 years ago. If you're not happy with these regulations then the correct thing to do is to challenge them; and if you suspect foul play by the competition, then expose it. What certainly won't work will be every country trying to draw up and enforce its own regulations: we have years of evidence as to how bad this is for trade.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Meanwhile German customers have discovered Dyson devices and seem to love them so why should Dyson try and cut itself off from this market?

      He isn't. Import duties aren't an impossible barrier, they're just a tilted playing field. I can buy plenty of non-EU made products quite easily for products whose makers have to pay duties intended to protect some inefficient EU industrial lobby. And so with Dyson - the markup on his cleaners is more than enough to support whatever WTO duties the EU have. JCB appear to have a similar view.

      I've actually been doing the Brexit analysis for my company (in a wholly different field), and we've concluded that there's bugger all benefit to us or our UK customers from being part of the EU. Most of the business cry-babies over Brexit are corporate dullards who fear change, not the entrepreneurs or commercial people who are always looking for opportunity.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Import duties? Who cares about import duties? He's arguing that we need to leave the EU because their daft rules for how vacuum cleaners can be sold. This will make him free to make and market his vacuums however he wishes in the UK and outside the EU, but if he wants to sell them in the EU, he still has to play the EU testing and regulation games.

        Except this time, he won't have any say in what those rules will be. Doesn't seem that smart to me.

        OTOH, most of Dyson's income comes from outside the UK, most of his costs (apart from his offshored manufacturing) are in pounds, so a big fall in sterling makes his businesses much healthier. cui bono

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          @ Tom 38

          "Except this time, he won't have any say in what those rules will be. Doesn't seem that smart to me."

          Did he anyway? The EU can guarantee our government that it will not use our contribution to bail out Greece (their failing Euro project), put it in writing and let Cameron parade it around as a victory but since they did it anyway why would they listen to Dyson any more than the gov they apparently dont want leaving the 'club'?

          Amusingly we dont have a say in the rules for most countries on this planet but yet we still manage.

      2. David Haworth 1
        Boffin

        Re: Import duties

        The new site will be an R&D site, not manufacturing.

        Dyson gear is manufactured in Malaysia and Singapore. They'll just import all the EU-bound good directly via some holding company in Luxemburg (if they don't already). Tariffs between UK and EU won't be an issue.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Import duties

          It's not about tariffs! If he wants to sell vacuum cleaners in the EU, he has to manufacture vacuum cleaners that can be sold in the EU, following all the EU rules - the rules he says we should leave the EU for. Which leaves only three outcomes:

          1) He keeps making all his vacuums to EU specs, but without any say at all in those specs

          2) He stops selling vacuums to the EU

          3) He makes two different types of vacuum, one for EU and one for rest of world

          Which one of those three seems most likely?

          PS: The EU is not some arbitrary juggernaut that we have no control over. We send a commissioner to the EU commission, which are responsible for EU executive action and is the only source of EU legislation. If there was something that the UK government thoroughly objected to, it would not make it past the commission. After Brexit, we have no commissioner and no say.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Import duties

            @ Tom 38

            "After Brexit, we have no commissioner and no say."

            So the same as trading with everywhere else? I expect he will do the same as he does for trading with any other country then.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "but as a result of them every EU household (and elsewhere because of the size of the market) now has more efficient appliances than 10 years ago."

      Apart from toasters. The lower power output means they take far longer to reach operating tempreture so the first slices(s) in take twice as long as previously, following slices take about 50% longer than previously, meanwhile lots more heat is escaping up and out of the toaster as waste during all this extra cooking time.

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Got an ex-RAF airfield so he can give the bloody Bosch, er Boche, a good carpetting!!

    Tally ho chaps :-)

  9. Bob Rocket

    Bosch

    Apparently not just cars and hoovers but ships as well.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    The best bit...

    "Still, Dyson said the U.K. lacks enough skilled workers. An additional 640,000 engineers are needed in the U.K. ... To fill the gap, the firm pledged 15 million pounds ($18.6 million) over the next five years to create an alternative to going to university. Talented engineers will be able to work and study at the company for four years to gain hands-on experience."

    What? You are NOT going to buy in foreign labour?

    And TRAIN? What is this crazy notion. Surely you just moan their is no-one about and do nothing to correct that.

    Next you'll be paying more than the minimum wage! The mans a nutter I tell you!

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The best bit...

      Is he really sure that 640K will be enough?

    2. AdamT

      Re: The best bit...

      I think he (and his company) also pay rather a lot of tax in the UK too according to this report in the Indy (albeit a few years old): http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-billionaires-who-do-pay-their-bills-including-james-dyson-and-jk-rowling-7873607.html

    3. Buzzword

      Re: The best bit...

      "Still, Dyson said the U.K. lacks enough skilled workers."

      Well he's certainly not going to find them if he's fishing in the tiny pool of talent that is Malmesbury. Yes, it's near Bristol and Swindon; but rush-hour traffic in those parts is horrendous, and the town doesn't even have a dual carriageway or a nearby railway station. Adding another 5,000 staff to those roads is just impossible. Even a theoretically perfect single-carriageway can only carry 1,900 cars per hour; and the A429 is far from perfect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The best bit...

        "and the town doesn't even have a dual carriageway"

        Fortunately junction 17 of the M4 is located approximately half a mile from RAF Hullavington

        Yes, traffic going into Bristol or Swindon can be bad at rush hour, coming out of them though?...

        I would imagine you would avoid the rush of people getting from one to the other since you have less distance to cover. Plus the other big lump of traffic is the ultra-commuters / Hooray Henry's heading to London who for fairly obvious reasons would be leaving earlier still

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: The best bit...

          They could jump up and down until the local council improves access to the site and then pull out a couple of years later like Pfizer did in Kent.

  11. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    I guess he has no interest in selling into the EU market, where I assume he will still have to follow EU laws and regulations which the UK will have no influence.

    Not only that but on Brexit every product produced in the UK, will now have to have the paperwork and administration costs of any external company.

    But hey, its only 500 million potential customers, I am sure our new trade deal with New Zealand will take up the slack.....

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      How hard can it be - nearly everything in your house is made in china / taiwan.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I guess he has no interest in selling into the EU market

      I guess he does, and has thought about that, and yet still believes that leaving the EU is the right course of action so either he's principled* to his own detriment or he believes there's a net benefit for him.

      He doesn't seem to be a stupid man so arguments against his stance are going to have to be more sophisticated than this.

      * You can be principled and wrong

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        How hard can it be - nearly everything in your house is made in china / taiwan.

        Well, we could start with labour costs. Knock those down to China levels and they will offset the increases. Lets kill environmental controls as well, I mean whats a little mercury and smog between friends. Lets kill any employment laws so that people can work 80 hour weeks with no pension/overtime etc.

        Hey look we can now sell everything as cheap as china as well...

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Knock those down to China levels and they will offset the increases.

          I thought Dyson had already done that years ago when off-shored production to Asia? And also moaned about how difficult it is to get good engineers in the UK?

          The experience of developing economies suggest that it takes at least a generation to train people up to graduate level. So, this sounds like very much like the "North Sea Singapore" version of Brexit. Nothing wrong with this per se but I don't see it going down with those who favour the "keep foreigners out" one.

          Personally, I prefer business leaders to keep out of politics as much as politicians should keep out of business. I have a Dyson vacuum cleaner and I wish the company success but I'm a little sceptical as to what this investment will really amount to.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Happy

            "Personally, I prefer business leaders to keep out of politics as much as politicians should keep out of business. "

            What? You want business leaders to continually interfere in politics and keep changing the rules on a whim? Are you sure? :-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Selling into the EU post-Brexit will be no different than selling into the EU now. And will be no different than selling into any trading block where we have "no influence".

      The "paperwork and administration costs" are already there.

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        EU rules on non-discrimination and mutual recognition, as well as supra-national EU regulations, allow most UK producers of goods and services to sell directly to EU customers without having to navigate through additional domestic government regulations. The rules are broad and have a strong enforcement mechanism. Generally speaking, if UK companies comply with domestic regulations, they may sell in the rest of the EU (as noted, with a few exceptions).

        That's the whole point of the single market, a level playing field across all members with the same rules. Now you may tell me about increased sovereignty, controls on immigration or whatever other fantasy you are reading in the daily express at present, but to suggest there will not be a fundamental cost in our trading relationship with our biggest market after Brexit is just la la land.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @hammarbtyp and others...

          You quite clearly have no experience selling into the EU and Worldwide. The additional "burden" of selling into the EU post brexit will be minimal. If you are already selling worldwide, then the processes involved in obtaining regulatory approval for your product (in whichever non-eu trading block) won't be significantly different than selling into the EU as a non-EU member.

          The company I work for sells into the EU, China, Japan, the Middle East, the US and so on. They all have different requirements, but once you establish a process for regulatory approval for one trading block, obtaining approval for another is straight forward and not a "burden".

          1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

            So you know what the rules will be post-brext do you. Well, do us a favour and tell the rest of us, because the UK government don't seem to have a clue, but obviously you have inside knowledge.

            That is the big difference between remainers and leavers. Remainers acknowledge the risks of leaving, while Brexiters promise rainbows and unicorns. You, I, the government have no idea of what the trading rules and regime will be post-brexit, but for certain they will be different.

            No doubt there will be winners and losers, but to suggest that things will be just the same in our trading relationship ijust shows how delusional the argument has become

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