Check out this story about how an invention emerged from an improvisational, wandering, zig-zag process, as James Dyson tells us about the Dyson Airblade hand dryer, in a letter to the editor in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. is bold when it comes to invention. In 2014 there were more patents granted in the U.S. than in any other country, but there is a global competition to develop the best technology. The U.S. government isn’t alone in wanting to attract highly inventive companies to develop intellectual property on its shores (“Tax Writers Favor Breaks for Patents,” Business & Tech., May 6).
Research and development is a risky business; there are no eureka moments and no certainty of success. Often the biggest breakthroughs are the ones you least expect. The Dyson Airblade hand dryer, for example, was a rather fortuitous result of a failed experiment. The technology we were originally working on is still in the labs, but the unexpected result is in washrooms around the world.
You can’t predict the outcome of R&D, and often it ends in failure—albeit failures that teach you valuable lessons and spur on future advances. But by encouraging companies to invest in R&D, you also create a highly skilled, highly paid workforce and boost exports in the process, as other countries demand the high technology that results.
The patent box has proved itself to be a very effective way of encouraging investment into R&D in the U.K. However, to be most effective, it must focus on the development of genuine technologies that improve our lives. So embrace the incentives—keep tinkering, keep researching and keep inventing!