Government focus on Silicon Roundabout 'web fads' criticised by Dyson inventor

By Danny Palmer
08 Jan 2013 View Comments
silicon roundabout

The inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, Sir James Dyson, has urged the government to do more to help engineering and science firms and focus less on the "glamour of web fads" coming out of Silicon Roundabout.

Dyson believes that engineering and science have the potential to generate more exports than the start-ups located in and around East London's Tech City, which have received funding help from the government and are due to benefit from another injection of £50m later this year under plans announced last month by Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

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"I am heartened that the government has shown a willingness to make the UK a high technology exporter," he told the Radio Times.

"But I am concerned that we are sometimes distracted by the glamour of web fads and video gaming rather than the development of tangible technology that we can export. There seems to be an obsession with Shoreditch's so-called Silicon Roundabout.

"The government must do more to attract the brightest and best into engineering and science so that we can compete internationally."

Dyson urged the government to do more to persuade science and engineering graduates to stay in research at universities after completing undergraduate qualifications.

"The government must recommit itself to engineering and science education at university level to ensure we have the world's brightest engineers," he said.

"A salary of £7,000 a year for postgraduate research is insulting - hardly enough to incentivise smart minds to stay on," Dyson added.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said its already looking to support scientists and engineers, although government science spending has fallen since 2010, despite election pledges.

Last year, the government announced plans to introduce the teaching of computer programming in schools as recommended by NESTA's 2011 Next Gen Skills report. Co-author of the report and skills Champion Ian Livingstone told Computing that programming in schools will bring major benefits to the UK's technology industry.

"Code is at the heart of everything we do in the digital world in which we exist. It's not just about video games and visual effects, it's also about designing the next jet propulsion engine, or fighting cybercrime, or running financial services," he said.

"Coding is essential to everything, and with traditional manufacturing in decline and financial services in disarray, if the government wants the economy to succeed, you have to empower our creative nation with the skills necessary to serve digital content to global audiences via high-speed broadband, and code is absolutely essential to that," Livingstone added.

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