Le Vif / L’Express: Several multinationals, including American, their hands on European companies. Such as General Electric, which comes to crunch Alstom. Our industry is in danger?
James Dyson: American companies can earn huge amounts of money outside their borders, and this poses serious problems. I find it unfair and they enjoy a competitive advantage by paying few taxes and amassing a war chest that they use today to make large acquisitions on the Old Continent.
Dyson is it prey?
I will never give my company, regardless of the amount on the table. We are a privately held company. I am an engineer. What I want is to invent, develop, create products. That’s what I love to do.
These multinationals can seize key technologies at our expense …
You mean like Google? Certainly, they can spend their money as they see fit, but nothing prevents us to develop technologies ourselves.
In 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron has given you a report on innovation to boost the industry. Europe does it adequately protects this area?
The authorities are aware of the tax liability of European companies. But Europe must also do more to encourage the emergence of new technologies. For companies like ours, we should be able to double or triple efforts in research and development every two or three years through support devices. We are too few engineers compared to China, India, South Korea and Singapore, and yet it is the only way to stand up to these countries. Innovation is neither thought nor determined by Brussels but by industry lobby groups whose proposals are selected and transformed into legislation. It is a mistake to think that Europe is at the origin. Our industry remains so dominated by German companies such as Bosch, Siemens, Miele, whose interest is to continue to produce vacuum cleaners with bags. However, for greater energy efficiency and less pollution, we should develop smaller, more fuel-efficient engines. That’s what we preach, but we only deliver this fight.
The UK turns increasingly to the European Union. Is it a risk?
not. Switzerland and Norway live well outside the Union. We are a net importer, and trade can persist even in the case of an exit from Europe. I am not for or against such a scenario. But look what happens in our field, we have not been listened to for a group monopolizes the discussion. So why stay in Europe? If German law favors the old technologies to dominate the market, why the hell continue on this path? What did we gain? Tell me!
A form of protection for grants …
I’m against protectionism: I want to sell in China. And I pay more taxes because of Europe that I perceive aid. I am also a farmer (Editor’s note: James Dyson has acquired 6,900 acres in Lincolnshire, in 2013), and this area does receive subsidies. But this support is bad because consumers should be able to pay a fair price for food, based on supply and demand.
Protect European industry, is not it mostly a way to preserve jobs in times of crisis?
The UK has already lost much of its industry and is doing pretty well. We have two production plants in Singapore and Malaysia. Settling in Singapore is very expensive, much more than in our country. But our suppliers are on site. However, our innovations are at home, where we have 3,000 engineers. All intellectual property, our taxes and profits are repatriated to England, which benefits from the creation of skilled jobs and financial resources.
Should we not just relocate production? The American government has asked Apple, for example.
No. I do not understand the reasons for such an approach. Anyway, the British government would never do that, it is much more modern and in tune with the times. One day, perhaps, production will return to the UK, but it should be a political will to encourage entrepreneurs to invest in factories. It has never been the case the last sixty years, and I see no such looming on the near term. Malaysia, Singapore, China, themselves, contributed to the development of this type of activity through tax cuts, a cheap labor market and flexibility. In the UK, if you want to rent a factory, you have to engage with a lease of twenty-one, even though you can not predict your sales year time horizon.
In France, the Minister of Economy, Arnaud Montebourg, advocates for the “Made in France”. Is this a solution?
It’s a stupid idea. Value added in the production process is very low, the true wealth lies in the intellectual property and know-how. These are the most important elements. No matter where the place of manufacture. This alternative model works well. It carries skilled jobs for a population that no longer wants to work with the chain in factories. Even if we wanted to make our products locally, it would anyway import components from abroad to assemble everything in the country. What’s the point?
But technologies like 3D printing could be a way to repatriate production in Europe …
3D printers are indeed promising, but TODAY ay, they mostly used to create prototypes and are not suitable for mass production. In the future, this could change, but other routes are already emerging as the manufacturing process by laser. These innovations could change things, but I do not like to make predictions, they often prove false. Anyway, governments need to change their attitude towards the engineering world, science and technology. And if that is not the case, the warranty. Take the patents is a good indicator. Their deposits in Germany, the United Kingdom and France remain stable, while in China or South Korea they explode. Europe should be very concerned about such signals.
Do not you regret that American Internet giants attract media attention when your industries create more jobs and wealth, but remain in the shadows?
No, that’s not exactly what I said. What they do is very interesting, but they overshadow the development of other innovations. Dyson, we develop software to improve the performance of our devices. The potential is huge, and this path is followed by Apple, and also, in vain, for Google. For children and students today, there are more interesting things develop as software, applications for mobile phones or video games.
put on connected Internet Europe – watches, weight scales … – to regain control over the United States. Do you think these innovations are a track for the future
The trend is already there. Now I do not know if everyone will want one day control everything remotely using the connected objects. Now, it is already possible to control the temperature of a room or to monitor what is happening at home with a smartphone. What I do know is that our future products will include these features to improve our services to users. Such developments also raise questions about the collection of data and respect for privacy.
Long before Google, Dyson has developed glasses connected. Why did you not follow
We worked on this project since 2001, with a screen the size of a fingernail placed in glass glasses to allow reading e-mails, for example. But at the time, there was not access to wireless internet, Wi-Fi, and we had to connect the glasses to a small computer in your pocket. However, I would not call it an invention, rather it was a combination of various known technologies. We develop a lot of things we do not give away. Besides, I have no predetermined plans. No logic connecting the devices we have designed, we do not market research or marketing plans. I admit that this is hardly a commercial approach.
These innovations are in line with a human being up new skills. Is this the future?
Yes, for sure. Today, it requires the touch of a smartphone screen, but tomorrow many other vectors will allow people to communicate. Already, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, paralyzed in a chair, wrote his e-mails through the movement of his face. We’re switching to a new world, a much more complex world. For example, we have a long history on the vision of robots, so they locate in space and move there, with help, for six years, the robotics laboratory at Imperial College London. Last February, we even decided to invest 5 million pounds. We believe that the future is here.
From what you say, we are entering the era of engineers.
The time is great for us. Freedom given by the algorithms, software, connectivity, combined with new materials, opens a fabulous outlook. When it became necessary to develop a new engine for my bagless vacuum, I also had to integrate software and artificial intelligence through algorithms. We do not see, unlike an iPhone. And soon, graphite, nanotubes, all this can transform products and revolutionize the world. At the same time, we need to save water, energy … To preserve the planet’s resources, engineers must work harder, but their task will be all the more interesting. We can solve all problems. In reality, we have to solve all the problems.
Prepare your estate?
I have a daughter who works in fashion, a musician and son in a label, Sat My other son is more like me, and he loves technology. I think he will succeed (smiles). I mean he will succeed in taking my estate.
By Emmanuel Paquette