MANUFACTURING MALAISE

Dyson urges youths to take interest in engineering, science

by Yasushi Azuma

Kyodo News

James Dyson, founder of British vacuum cleaner maker Dyson Ltd., is urging young people to turn toward engineering and science to revive faltering manufacturing in Britain and other industrialized nations.

“I think there is a sense of crisis,” Dyson said in a recent interview in Tokyo. He said young people do not show much interest in engineering and science in Britain and the situation is likewise in other industrial nations, including Japan.

“If you look at what’s happening in China and India, there is a huge number of children there who want to become engineers and scientists,” Dyson said, adding such a development is “very frightening for our economies and also for our culture.”

The 60-year-old British entrepreneur was visiting Japan to promote a new product.

A number of consumer electronics companies are shifting their production bases to developing countries, including China, in search of low production costs, and are transferring technology and knowhow to such countries as well, Dyson said.

But other industries, including automobiles and aeronautics, remain in high-cost countries, he said.

Dyson lamented that young people’s apparent lack of interest in engineering and science stems from contemporary culture, which he says is against manufacturing.

He said the media puts too much emphasis on the financial and real estate industries, as their developments happen at a more rapid pace.

“The press talks about that with a great deal of excitement because something is happening very quickly,” he said.

In a bid to inspire more children to study engineering, Dyson plans to open a school in Britain in fall 2009 equipped with huge exhibitions, including jet engines, aircraft components and Formula One racing cars.

The British inventor said he also wants parents and teachers to come to the school to share the understanding of the importance of manufacturing.

Though people must work long and hard to master engineering and science, Dyson said the process of designing and developing new products and technology is “very exciting.”

But Dyson is not optimistic about the future of manufacturing in industrialized nations.

“I’m not confident that something will be done about it in our countries because it means a big cultural change,” he said.

Turning to his own business, Dyson showed confidence that the DC24 cyclonic vacuum cleaner will become a hit in the Japanese market.

Dyson said the large ball at the bottom of the bagless vacuum cleaner’s vertical body contains an electric motor that allows it to change directions more smoothly than conventional vacuum cleaners that have wheels on the bottom.

He said the concept is similar to a computer mouse.

In addition to vacuum cleaners, Dyson said he plans to introduce a new electrical appliance in Japan but declined to elaborate.

While Dyson proudly explained the merits of the new vacuum cleaner, he said he still has a thirst for innovation.

“There are obvious things that we need to do in the future for vacuum cleaners . . . (to make them) quieter, more powerful, lighter and use less electricity,” he said. “All these things we want to achieve, and we are developing technology to do that.”

The development of a more efficient and powerful electric motor will be a key to the future, Dyson added.

The Japanese market — the second largest after the U.S. for the British maker — is expected to remain attractive because Japanese consumers are “very technology-oriented and very sophisticated, compared with any other markets in the world,” he said.