James Dyson: Britain needs to focus more on its creativity

From the Richard Dimbleby lecture given by the designer and entrepreneur, in London
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The Independent Online

This world is driven by technology. We have no choice but to shake off our obsession with styling. And to focus on creating new, more advanced products. The first thing we must do is divest ourselves of several lazy misconceptions.

This world is driven by technology. We have no choice but to shake off our obsession with styling. And to focus on creating new, more advanced products. The first thing we must do is divest ourselves of several lazy misconceptions.

What kind of deceits? That the 18th and 19th centuries were a golden age of manufacturing. They weren't. That Britain once led the industrial world. And that we really knew how to make things well. We didn't.

That we are a nation of inventors more creative than anyone else. We're not and we never have been.

It is essential that we dump hoary old myths if we want to maintain our wealth, power, and influence. And in terms of patent applications per capita - probably the best measure of a nation's inventiveness - we are fast slipping down the league table. A few years ago, Britain was in seventh place, behind Luxembourg and only just ahead of Monaco. I'd be tempted to ask you to name a famous Monegasque inventor, but that would highlight our sorry state of affairs.

But it needn't be like this. All we need to do is give engineers a free hand. We need to encourage more people to become engineers and scientists. And to encourage manufacturers and financiers to invest in the future through R&D. We're taking the right steps in our schools and universities. They have turned their backs on shallow styling. They have realised the future belongs to people who make things that work better. The change has long been apparent in architecture. It has abandoned the hollow styling obsession of post-modernism. The best architects now make a feature of the technology that makes their designs possible.

Manufacturing and engineering are about brains, not brawn or looks. And the future belongs to those who use their brains best. Rise up engineers!

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