Automation will ‘improve our lives’, says Dyson founder

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Sir James Dyson has said automation should not be feared and will “improve our lives” as he announced plans to ramp up spending on research and development to £8m a week in 2018.

The billionaire founder of Dyson said, instead of replacing workers’ jobs, it will boost employment as skilled engineers and IT experts are needed to develop the new technology behind robotics and automation.

He said: “I do understand the concern, but my own view is that it will merely increase employment.”

 

“As long as it’s a force for good and not evil, it’s going to improve our lives,” he added.

His comments came as the group pledged to invest £8m a week in investment on research and development (R&D) in 2018 as it posted record profits for 2017 thanks to booming demand across Asia.

Underlying earnings rose 27 per cent to £801m on a 40 per cent hike in revenues to £3.5bn, with 73 per cent of its growth from Asia.

The group said continental Europe grew at 21 per cent, with a similar growth rate in the UK, and the Americas at 19 per cent.

Automatic products are a big push for the group, in particular air purifier across Asia, according to Sir James.

Dyson has also pledged to spend £2.5bn on long-term technology, of which £2bn is being earmarked for its new electric vehicle project.

The group revealed last year that it is working on the development of an electric vehicle that is set to be launched in 2020.

Half of that investment will go directly towards the vehicle’s creation, while the remaining £1bn will fund battery technology.

The group already has a 400-strong automotive team, which will this year move into a new state-of-the-art building at Hullavington Airfield, a 750 acre campus which will be Dyson‘s second R&D campus in Britain.

Dyson is also currently recruiting another 300 staff for the automotive team.

Last year’s revelation over its electric car plans came amid a dispute with former Dyson chief executive Max Conze over the alleged disclosure of confidential information.

The allegations were vehemently denied by Mr Conze and Dyson settled out of court in December.

Mr Conze worked for the vacuum and hairdryer-maker for six years before being replaced in October by chief operating officer Jim Rowan.

Sir James said the group had now “moved on” from the saga. “We’ve got a very good engineer chief executive and we’re in very good shape,” he said.

He also said the group, which employs 4,450 engineers and scientists, of which half are based in the UK, was continuing with its push to increase female engineers throughout the firm and, more widely, in Britain.

More than a quarter, 28 per cent, of students at its privately-funded university in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, are female, but there is more to do to increase women engineers in the firm and at a senior level, Sir James said.

“We are quite well represented (by women), but not as well as we should be,” he said.

While it is the group’s “mission” to boost the number of female engineers, he said “society is a problem, because it doesn’t encourage girls to work in engineering, we’ll do whatever we can, but society has to do its bit as well”.

The group, which is yet to reveal its gender pay gap ahead of the April deadline, took in 33 undergraduates at the university last September when it launched and is hoping to increase its intake to 50 this year.

PA