Case studies

Next-generation robotics

An image of Vincent Clerc

Vincent Clerc

Head of Robotics, Malmesbury

From tech polymath to Head of Robotics working on Dyson’s next-generation robots.

As an expert in robotics, I’ve worked in many different domains and environments. Before Dyson, I was director of robotics research at a company designing humanoid-type robots. Previous to that, I was CTO at an aeronautics company that specialised in aeronautic black box flight recorders for the military, which we had to design with a super-reliable self-destruct mechanism.

So I’ve worked across a wide spectrum of technology – I’ve even owned a paintball gun company. But when the Dyson acquisition team approached me and asked me to join, I didn’t know what I could bring to the company, as it wasn't well-known in the robotics space.

They persisted, saying things like, “Imagine what Dyson can do” and “It’s going to be different”. And I got a sense of how ambitious James Dyson was in the area of next-generation robots.

This new robotics team were a relatively small team when I started in September 2017. We’ve continued to grow and are continuing to hire top-notch roboticists. We have a great visionary at the helm of the company and the future is ambitious. That’s exciting.

Dyson’s a place where everything seems possible. James and Jake Dyson are passionate about robotics, and we have hours of discussion. We’ve got the energy and means to create anything. And, unusually for robotics, we have almost limitless access to prototyping capabilities.

My role in the robotics team is like an orchestra conductor. I’m the go-to person on mechanical aspects and how they’re related to software and electronics. Everything’s related. A small change in one aspect has an influence on another. Like a car, a robot can have 20,000 different parts and can be super complex. Every time you touch a lever it will have an impact on another domain and different sub systems.

Because of the complexity of our work, part of my job is making sure the right people speak together at the right time. We have a good mix of experts from across Europe and around the world, which helps create a different culture here. The pace is slower than in start-ups and Silicon Valley companies for good reason – we take rational decisions. It’s why Dyson is agile and good at releasing innovative products.