Business

Cleaning up the competition: Dyson is proof that Britain can build great hardware

By Oliver Smith 21 March 2016
James Dyson, a driver of British inventions
Summary

Explosive growth in China and soaring global interest means Dyson is Britain's hardware king.

Great Britain isn’t great at building good hardware.

Our best-known digital businesses, like TransferWise, Candy Crush-maker King and up-and-coming challenger bank Mondo, are all focused on software.

Even Arm – probably the UK’s most successful tech export known for the chips that power your smartphone – doesn’t actually manufacture anything, rather it sells and licenses chip designs.

Read more: Arm, 25 years as Britain’s most innovative company

But there’s an exception to every rule, and Dyson is our exception.

Britain’s hardware king

Maybe you think of Dyson as the maker of quirky vacuum cleaners and blade-less fans, but today the company isn’t just a British ‘superbrand’ but also a global success story.

Read more: A look inside Dyson’s house of the future

Fighting in an industry dominated by German and cheap Chinese brands, Dyson today reported a 26% rise in revenues to a huge £1.7bn, driven largely by explosive growth in China.

Last year when The Memo visited Dyson’s showroom in London the company extolled the virtues of its range of air purifiers, products that we imagine has little place in the UK market.

But for Beijing, which issued two “red” warnings over hazardous smog levels in December alone, the fit couldn’t be better.

The demand, combined with rising global interest in Dyson’s cordless cleaners, sent profits soaring to £448m last year.

Investing in the future

Today Sir James Dyson revealed that his company would use the huge profits to invest a further £1bn in improving battery technology that powers its products over the next five years.

“By ramping up our investment in technology and expanding research and development we are developing machines that perform better and disrupt the status quo,” James Dyson said.

“We put faith in young bright minds – our average age [of engineers] is 26.”

With Dyson also pledging an extra £100m to invest in other technology businesses and London getting its very own hardware-focussed Internet of Things business programme, the future for Britain’s hardware prowess is looking brighter than ever.