Billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson has put his 2020 troubles behind him with the announcement of a $3.6 billion war chest to develop technology that will take Dyson products outside of the home for the very first time.
The British industrial designer best-known for his distinctive and much-loved household appliances–vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, and hair straighteners–also confirmed long-standing plans to move his global head office from the U.K. to Singapore.
The most likely move for Dyson is further development of the powerful, long-life batteries, intended for its much-hyped but abandoned electric vehicle project that the billionaire was forced to shelve in October last year. Although specifics are yet to be confirmed, Dyson said in a statement today that it will “double” its portfolio of products and enter entirely new fields of innovation including robotics and machine learning by 2025.
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Sir James Dyson with a fan APN
The announcement of a $3.6 billion “drive” for new technology products comes after a number of public setbacks for one of Britain’s best-known billionaire entrepreneurs.
While October 2019 saw the end of their dream to build a Dyson electric car, in 2020 he received a very public rejection from the U.K. government to build much-needed hospital ventilators during the height of the covid-19 pandemic in April.
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However, not all was lost. Although Dyson’s failure to make a Union Jack-branded, the cost-effective electric car failed spectacularly (costing the tycoon a reported $600 million of his own money in the process) the project was not without some significant engineering merit. Sir James’s team claimed to have developed a car battery with a far greater range than competitors, including that of Elon Musk’s Tesla vehicles.
Dyson said in various interviews following the demise of the project that its batteries could power its car (rather large, by British standards) over 600 miles–a distance roughly spanning the northern tip of Scotland to the southern coast of England. The technology provided a glimmer of hope for the British inventor who finally admitted defeat after failing to trim the production price tag of over $200,000–a price considerably above what’s affordable for the average U.S. or U.K. driver.
Dyson said in a letter to the firm’s 500 staff in October, “Our automotive team has developed a fantastic electric car, but unfortunately it is not commercially viable.” However, despite Dyson’s obvious disappointment, the electric car project wasn’t a complete disaster and the “commercialization” of Dyson’s “proprietary solid-state battery technology” is an area of potential development and an obvious signpost as to where the future of his business might sit, according to today’s statement.
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James Dyson, founder, and chairman of Dyson Ltd © 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP
Although the new Dyson products remain a closely guarded secret, what’s considerably better known is the continuing creep of Dyson’s (once British) business empire to the east. Today’s statement confirms that Dyson’s HQ will follow Sir James Dyson’s property acquisitions over the last two years, towards its larger customer base (and preferable regulatory regime) in Asia.
Sir James Dyson, who has in the past been criticized for his bullish stance on Brexit while at the same time deepening ties and moving his business to Singapore, confirmed plans to open its new global head office complex in the historic South-East Asian city-state’s St James Power Station. To that tune, Dyson will also expand its “advanced R&D facilities and research labs” there, and also establish a new University research program. While in the Philippines, Dyson has announced plans for a new dedicated software hub in Alabang.
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Sir James Dyson at The Design Museum DAVE BENETT/GETTY IMAGES FOR LUXURY CAVE
Dyson–what will he do next?
With staff remaining tight-lipped on the latest products planned to arrive off the Dyson conveyor belt, Richard Alvin from Capital Business Media tells Forbes that, with Dyson’s “revolutionary” electric vehicle technology in mind, there’s potential for Dyson to lead the way with a “powerful portable charger” or technology that could bring electric charge points to rural areas.
Jamie Davies, head of innovation at Amplify speculates that Dyson may take on environmental challenges and develop “artificially intelligent recycling bins,” or fans to remove “harmful particulate[s]” for public use.
Dyson, alongside a number of British billionaires, endured a difficult pandemic. In April an earnest attempt to develop life-saving hospital ventilators was requested and then rejected by the U.K. government after the country’s traditional suppliers of complex medical equipment beat him to the punch.
However, Dyson remains one of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs with a slowly growing estimated net worth of over $6 billion. Amidst a climate of consolidation, Dyson is one of the country’s few business leaders and inventors about which commentators today can actually speculate–what will he do next?
Even if it doesn’t always quite work. He has done his work.