James Dyson, maverick inventor funds a product incubator

James Dyson, the British inventor behind the iconic Dyson line of vacuum cleaners is giving $8 million to London’s Royal College of Art for an incubator, Fast Company magazine reports. The RCA design and engineering graduates will incubate 40 new products. Dyson, believes that with all the obsession on code and digital, there is need for physical inventions. Some of the products being worked on at the incubator include LooWatt (a waterless toilet system that generates biogas in developing communities) and a retractable room divider for hospital wards, KwickScreen.

Dyson tells Fast Company’s Co.Design:

“Talented young minds want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. But with the world abuzz with digital, we are losing sight of real engineering. Hardware is profitable. Don’t be fooled, Apple’s success as a technology company is built on hardware. The current fixation with digital is misplaced. Long-term it is unlikely to generate jobs, growth, and exports. Instead, we need to encourage more young engineers to commercialize their technologies.”

First of all, I think it is a great idea. There are so many product categories that are in need of reinvention and re-imagination, as the consumers of today are very different from the consumers of say, 25 years ago. How we use physical objects today is very different.

Dyson’s bet on a physical products incubator comes at a time when digital and physical are getting increasingly closer. The rise of devices such as Nest shows that physical objects of tomorrow will need to embrace software, connectivity and services.

PS: We will be discussing the role of design in shaping our connected future with folks such as Ev Williams (Twitter co-founder), Tony Fadell (Nest co-founder) and others at our RoadMap conference on November 5th in San Francisco.