James Dyson Award 2011


Over the last 30 years, the flow of our brightest engineering graduates was sucked into the bloated and profligate financial-services sector, seduced by lucrative compensation packages. Meanwhile, manufacturing was allowed to wither on the vine, seen as an unfashionable anachronism in the charge to a predominantly services based economic model. In countries like Australia, manufacturing shrunk from a peak of approximately 25% of GDP in the 1960s, to something like 13% today. It’s simply easier to dig it up, grow it, or peddle intangibles. The absence of an export oriented manufacturing sector is an area of concern, especially as the mining resources boom cannot last forever.

It is time that the money, the recognition and the support went to our future young engineers and scientists, the very people that can revitalise the ailing economic engines of the West. Without them, the important task of rebuilding our manufacturing capabilities will be next to impossible, depriving us of the tools necessary to compete in a radically transformed global economy.

I’m encouraged that for two years running, an Australian has won the international James Dyson student design award, run in 18 countries “to encourage the next generation of design engineers to be creative, challenge and invent.” James Dyson is of course the industrial designer and entrepreneur who founded the Dyson company.

The winning project for 2011 is Airdrop Irrigation. You can follow the link, or watch the video below, to learn more about Edward Linnacre’s deceptively simple but effective system to harvest moisture from air for irrigating crops in arid regions. His design is inspired by the Namib beetle, a fine example of biomimicry.  Let’s hope that the Australian  private sector lends Edward the support he deserves. Our future may depend on what they do next.






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