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EETE SEPTEMBER 2012

NEWS & TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW Patents drive innovation By Nick Flaherty Despite all the legal battles between samsung and that in order to win world markets you have to produce better apple, patents are a key way of protecting investors and en- technologies than your competitors because if you can’t you couraging the exploitation of innovation, says the UK’s leading have nothing to export,” he said. engineer, James Dyson. More has to be done to generate more part of this comes from providing the right environment for engineers, more patents and more innovation in europe over the innovation to thrive, he says, from training engineers to backing next 20 years. innovation and research. “Developing new technology is very “i get very depressed and alarmed when i hear people have risky and you have to acknowledge that and incentive people to copied technology, infringed the patent and got away with it develop it,” he said. “You have to have the right sort of structure because i know it will encourage plagiarism and discourage to encourage it but you do have to encourage individuals. a lot innovation,” he said. “if you don’t have patents you won’t have of new technology and risk taking happens because an indi- innovation.” Patents do not stifle innovation, he says. “i see patents as a way of increas- ing competition not least because when someone has discovered a way of doing something and patented it, if you want to compete with them you have to develop your own way of compet- ing and develop your own technology, not copy theirs,“ he said. “if someone takes the risk of spending lots of time and lots of money in developing technology and a lot of money going into production and making a success of it, if people are able to copy it then no one will conduct innovation, no one will do research and development.” the defence of “prior art” isn’t necessarily helpful, he says, vidual wants to do it and drives the business through, so i think as a patent is just as much about making the ideas work in you need to encourage that as well.” practice, not just protecting the idea. One example of this is the James Dyson awards, which run Dyson, who founded his consumer electronics company in every year to find the best young engineers. The 2012 awards 1992 and now employs 1000 engineers in the UK, sees europe were announced last week (30th august) and includes projects as falling behind countries like China and india in innovation. from 18 countries, from a retrofit LED bulb, that due to its inno- “If you look at the number of patents filed in the UK and in vative heatsink, reaches a light output equivalent to 175W and Germany, it’s not that we are filing fewer patents,” he said. “The an eye-controlled camera to earplugs with built-in alarms. problem is that our competitors like China, Korea and india are “innovation is innate,” said Dyson. “We employ a lot of filing an increasing number of patents, so the problem is that we graduates and you just allow them to develop their technology, will be left behind.” develop their ideas and when you see them, take them and run While the quality of patents in the Us and europe is higher, with them. We want to change things. this will change with countries like China producing very large it’s not hard to inspire young engineers, he says. “allowing numbers of engineers. “We can’t stay as we are, we have to re- them to take risks and making sure it goes into production, double, more than re-double, our efforts to develop new tech- that’s all you have to do as young people have that innovation nology, train new engineers and scientists in order to maintain and desire to change the world, you just have to use it,” he said. our position,” he said. Dyson is also looking at long term research that will generate “There are several things we need to do. The first is to innovation and patents over the next 15 to 20 years. increase the number of engineers. We are under-producing the “We are investing in new materials, things that can be sub- numbers we need in Britain by 50% and the same is true in strates for chips, looking 15 to 20 years into the future because germany. iran and Mexico produce twice as many engineering you have to,” he said. “electric motors are a very interesting graduates as Britain so we are under-producing and industry is area of development, as are robotics, batteries and sound, but short of engineers. electronics is only an enabler. the technology that goes with it “the second problem is that governments need to recognise is much harder,” he said. 12 Electronic Engineering Times Europe September 2012 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE SEPTEMBER 2012
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