Investing in education
We need skilled design engineers to develop these ideas and to start at grassroots level - with education. The UK produces 24,000 engineering graduates a year: 4% of the total number of UK graduates. This isn't even enough to fill the 37,000 engineering vacancies in the UK every year. In comparison, creative arts and design employ just 11% of graduates.

The trouble is that children are funnelled away from this most interesting and fulfilling of professions at an early age - lured away by academic qualifications and jobs in areas like the media.

Despite a growing hunger for new technology, many bright and creative pupils feel that to be successful they have to study subjects traditionally perceived as academic or creative, rather than practical.

Why is it necessary to create these artificial pigeonholes? Why can't people be academic, creative and practical? These polymaths are exactly the kind of people engineering needs. We've been too quick to give up on engineering and place our faith in the service economy and financial industries. And look where that's got us. Let's put our energy into the genuine creative industry of making things.

UK engineering is often referred to as "old industry", implying it's on its last legs. I believe this stems from the way people perceive manufacturing - as factories and mass assembly. But manufacturing is much more than that. It's about inventing and solving problems; researching, testing and experimenting with ideas and technology. The assembly bit only comes at the very end of a process that often takes years. The heart of manufacturing is design engineering.

Design engineering
At Dyson we design and engineer vacuum cleaners, digital motors and hand dryers. We use the term "design engineer" rather than "engineer" because the skills needed to make something may be methodical and practical, but they are also creative and inventive. The work is most certainly not dirty, drab or dull.

We moved our assembly to Malaysia in 2002, a decision born of local planning red tape and a need to be close to our suppliers (as an example, even our British three-pin-plugs had to be shipped in from Thailand). It was a difficult and controversial move, but it's proved to be the right one. It allowed us to take on more design engineers and concentrate on inventing new technology in the UK, where we employ over a thousand people.

Today engineering is more exciting than ever. It's about making things, be it cars, planes, ships, appliances or Large Hadron Colliders. It plays a part in everything, from the most humble domestic appliance to solving global warming, or attempting to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Engineering is always attempting to push boundaries and has moved with the times. At Dyson, design engineers work with specialists who look at everything from microbiology and acoustics to aerodynamics and robotics. We invest time and resources in future technology.

So the discipline is not about banging two pieces of metal together. It ties together many different elements: design, maths, technology - and, most essentially for success, creativity.

Engineering is also essential to our economy. Until the recent downturn, manufacturing accounted for half of the UK's exports. It added more than £150bn a year to the economy - more than double that of the other creative industries combined, and more than the troubled financial sector.

However, a glance at our balance of trade causes concern. We're importing far more than we export. There's now a £8.3bn deficit in trade goods - and it's the biggest since records began in 1697.

We must reverse this trend and reaffirm our status as an engineering nation. It can be done. I worry that too much time is spent coming up with buzzwords and initiatives, without much substance to back them up. While it's absolutely right to encourage creativity, why limit the definition of which industries are creative and, by passive association, those which are not?

Essentially, creativity means new ideas. And new ideas take many different forms. Creative engineering shouldn't just respond to demand - it should predict what's next. And then make it.

That's why investing in research and development is so important. The companies that will come out strongest from this recession will be those waiting in the wings with new ideas. In a global economy, where India and China are dominant manufacturing forces, we need to keep the intellectual property upper-hand.

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