'Making things' to get a £5m stimulus

Sir James Dyson will reportedly make the single largest donation in the history of Britain’s leading design school to help rediscover our talent for “making things.

The design luminary, best-known for his bagless vacuum cleaner, will inject £5million into a building at the Royal College of Art’s new campus in South London.

Explaining his pledge, the entrepreneur said he wanted to “turn the tide” of British designers and engineers exporting themselves overseas, particularly to the US.

His comments allude to Jonathan Ives, the British-born designer behind Apple’s ‘i’ family of devices, and Steve Harper, designer for Volvo, both of whom live abroad.

Part of the problem in the UK is that “engineers are not accorded the status they deserve,” while design & technology “is still struggling to shake off a dreary image.”

Manufacturing should be supporting these disciplines, Dyson added, but Britain has “lost the will, lost the cultural interest” and it has been neglected by the government.

“We’re prepared to spend hundreds of billions saving the banking industry, but we’re not prepared to invest a few billion in the manufacturing industry. We should be.”

Writing in the Observer, he argued that these adverse developments are problematic for the UK, an export-led economy, because “we’re running out of things to sell.”

Cue his £5m donation to the college, which will use the funds to construct studios and 40 business ‘incubator’ units, so graduates’ ideas can be nurtured into real products.

Today’s 20-somethings will then have less of an excuse not to follow in the footsteps of RCA graduates - the architect David Adjaye, the artist David Hockney and Dyson himself.

“A lot of ideas, when they start, are very fragile,” he told the paper. “There are 101 reasons why they should fail and probably only one reason why they should succeed.”

Dyson also suggested the government should look at the important role the design, technology and engineering industries could play in rebuilding the economy.

“We’ve built our modern economy on the service sector, loans, banking and the dot.com bubble. Now that’s collapsed we should seek to base it on long term with solid foundations.

“If we don’t we risk losing an already weakened position for good. Making money from money should be replaced with making money from making.”


9th February 2009

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