Sir James Dyson and family
Household goods, Technology
Dyson is excited about his foray into technical education. The first intake of students at the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, on a £15m campus in Malmesbury near his Wiltshire business headquarters, will open their books in the autumn, taking four-year engineering degrees in partnership with Warwick University. Long frustrated with Britain's skills gap, he said: "We are taking matters into our own hands."
Dyson, 70 last Tuesday, also unveiled a £2.5bn investment in another tech campus nearby at Hullavington earlier this year, as his business empire widens its horizons to take in the latest battery technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence. The planned industrial centre will allow the inventor to double his 3,500-strong workforce over the next few years. Still best known for his vacuum cleaners and hand-dryers, Dyson has more recently diversified into hairdryers, air purification systems and electric cars. He has also expanded into fresh markets, with exports growing particularly strongly over the past year as profits in 2016 soared by 41% to £631m on £2.51bn sales.
While many in the technology industry are focusing on allowing domestic appliances and other devices to be controlled by apps, Dyson is increasingly examining ways to make such products autonomous; for example, looking at ways to equip central heating and air-conditioning systems with artificial intelligence so they can operate independently. This is all a long way from Norfolk-born Dyson's early days. Having studied industrial design at the Royal College of Art, his first foray into inventing was the Ballbarrow more than 40 years ago. He then spent 15 years plugging away to get the first Dyson dual-cyclone vacuum cleaner on the market. But Britain's top inventor is also busy with new products and expansion of his £6.3bn empire. His £300 Supersonic hairdryer went on sale last June, with Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette said to be among the first customers to receive one. Since 1999 he and his family have had more than £400m in salaries and dividends. He is also a bigger landowner than the Queen (qv), with total holdings of about 25,000 acres. We add £1.5bn for these private assets.
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