Dyson boss on hunt for UK engineers

Michael Bow
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DYSON’S new chief executive Max Conze yesterday urged the government to do more to invest in young UK engineers and strengthen patent laws to help propel a new generation of risk taking entrepreneurs to success.

Announcing record breaking profits for the firm and ambitious plans to push into China, Conze said UK engineers needed to be given more incentives to stay and work in the UK.

He also called for more enforceable intellectual property laws to create more inventor risk taking and stop rivals ripping each other off.

“We still only produce about half the engineers of say Mexico, which isn’t very exciting,” Conze said yesterday. “We need to train engineers in the UK, but we also need to keep them here so we can invest and come up with British ideas and export them to the world. We need to make sure they are paid enough money over here rather than go somewhere else, because they move abroad quite a bit.”

As you would expect from a man heading a firm noted for eye catching vacuum cleaners and ubiquitous hand dryers, Conze is passionate about ideas and the buzz of the laboratory.

“There are few things that are more fun than being in a place where you are surrounded by tons of young engineers”, Conze said yesterday. “Lots of people who wake up every morning wanting to change the world.”

He was promoted to chief executive just over six months ago to lead the technology firm started by entrepreneur Sir James Dyson 20 years ago, having headed up Dyson’s North America operations. Before that he worked at Procter & Gamble.

Today Conze announces record profits for Dyson and ambitious plans to launch into China. Profits grew 30 per cent to £306.3m up from £236.5m on the back of more than £1bn in revenues.

Dyson’s research and development spend also shot up from £45m to £59m – its highest level ever. This investment is set to grow 20 per cent annually over the next five years.

But, Conze says, more needs to be done to encourage risk taking engineers and designers to pour money into their research and development products.

“At Dyson, we think we have ideas for the next 25 years,” he said.

“But we don’t want to talk today about what we’re unveiling tomorrow because we really do worry about protecting patent and IP rights.”

The company currently holds over 3,000 patents for over 500 inventions and is one of the highest filers of patents in the UK, not surprising given the 1,536 scientists and engineers it has beavering away in its labs.

But without strong enforceable laws to prevent rivals ripping each other off, how can there be an incentive to develop new technology in the UK?

“We think IP laws could do with strengthening, in particular enforcing the law, “ he says.

“It should be a battle of ideas not a battle of copies. For every idea you see there are many failed ideas that you’ve spent resource and money on, so you need to make sure that when that idea comes it is protected so the investor can earn a return.

“But my job is not inventing, my job is making sure that we stay focused on the core of what we do. It’s great fun.”