SINGAPORE -- British technology company Dyson has invested 330 million pounds ($413 million) into a new research and development center in Singapore, the largest such facility aside from its headquarters in Malmesbury, U.K. The center will focus on both software and hardware development, in a bid to take a lead role in the era of internet of things.
Located near the National University of Singapore, the center will work in collaboration with the company's U.K. research team in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. It houses a laboratory dedicated to connectivity technology the company calls the "connected room."
Dyson already boasts a number of connected products, including an air purifier and an autonomous vacuum cleaner that can be controlled remotely, and plans to increase its capability in the field.
"Software is propelling hardware companies at a faster rate than software is propelling software companies," said chairman James Dyson at the center's grand opening on Monday. "The power comes from the two working together."
The company plans to hire 200 more software engineers locally over the next 18 months. "We are very good in hardware," chief operating officer Jim Rowan said. "Now more and more products are on electronics and connectivity, or sensors. So we need to bring on board software engineers and electronics engineers."
Famous for its bagless vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and now an ultraquiet hair dryer, the brand is looking to strengthen ties with Southeast Asia. The company opened a new manufacturing facility in Alabang, south of Manila, last year to produce hand-held vacuum cleaners and hair driers. The Philippines offers a cost effective location and access to a large English speaking workforce that can support growth, Rowen explained.
Aside from the Philippines, Dyson has manufacturing plants in Singapore, where cutting-edge motors are made, and in southern Malaysia. The U.K. headquarters focuses on design, research and development.
Asked about the possibility of developing electric vehicles, founder and chief engineer Dyson said he wants to lead a revolution in battery technology, but declined to talk about specific products under development. "You have seen we have been developing battery technology -- solid state batteries we are developing in America, and carbon nanotube supercapacitors that we are developing in England," he said.
Dyson brushed aside concerns over the negative impact of the U.K's exit from European Union on its business. "Britain has opportunities to negotiate free trade deals with other countries outside of Europe," he said.
Commenting on the Trump administration's trade policy, Dyson said, "America is about free trade, and America depends on free trade ... I doubt whether President Trump will change too much."