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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 01:12 GMT
Knighthood for Dyson entrepreneur
James Dyson
James Dyson has been a champion of UK design and engineering
James Dyson, the engineer who reinvented the vacuum cleaner, says his recipe for success is simple: he makes things that people want to buy.

It may sound easy - but Mr Dyson, who received a knighthood in the honours list, was not an overnight success.

A former art-school student, he says it took him four and a half years and 5,127 prototypes to refine his design.

Mr Dyson's patience paid off. He is about to have a "Sir" before his name, and he heads a firm worth about $1bn.

Speaking of his long haul to the top, Mr Dyson said that while it may have sounded tedious, it was in fact fascinating.

"Each failure, the 5,126 failures taught me so much," the 59-year-old explained. "Success teaches you nothing. Failures teach you everything.

"Making mistakes is the most important thing you can do."

Exporting jobs

Mr Dyson was born in 1947 in Norfolk, the son of academic parents. After school, he studied at the Royal College of Art between 1966 and 1970, where he learnt furniture and interior design.

Following four years at engineering firm Rotork, Mr Dyson set up his own firm in 1974 and developed the Ballbarrow, which replaced the wheelbarrow's traditional wheel with a ball.

To survive against Chinese producers, we can't just rely on shallow styling. We need technology and design that they don't have
James Dyson

According to his company website, Mr Dyson stumbled across the idea for the bagless vacuum cleaner while renovating his country house in the Cotswolds.

In 1983, his pink G-Force vacuum cleaner was featured on the front cover of Design Magazine. A decade later, the Dyson DC01 came onto the UK market selling for about 200.

Today, the company has about 1,400 staff in the UK, with about 4,000 others working in production plants in Malaysia and China.

Despite his successes, Mr Dyson has been criticised for his decision to ship so many production jobs abroad.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB said: "Do people now get a knighthood for services to exporting jobs?"

'Country's future'

Mr Dyson has previously said that critical comments have little effect on him - and he is not shy of fighting for what he believes in, taking on vacuum-cleaner firm Hoover in a legal battle over patent infringement in 1999.

Despite selling products that easily recognisable by their bright colours, Mr Dyson argues that cute designs are not enough to ensure the success of a product, and wants the UK to do more to promote engineering and technology.

James Dyson and his cylinder model vacuum
James Dyson wants the UK to be an engineering centre of excellence

"To survive against Chinese producers, we can't just rely on shallow styling," he said. "We need technology and design that they don't have.

"As long as we continue to innovate and produce products that have better features and work better, we can compete."

Earlier this year, Mr Dyson revealed plans to set up the Dyson School of Design Innovation in Bath, which will aim to encouraging young people to consider engineering careers.

"I have spent 35 years making things in a country that often has little regard for its manufacturers," he once said.

"It has left me more convinced than ever that engineering is this country's future."


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