Q&A: Lateral’s R&D team on innovation generation

Written by Guest Author

Lateral Naval Architects is a company always with a diverse spectrum of ideas and projects on the go. Senior Naval Architect & Research Development Coordinator, Adrien Thoumazeau, not only knows how this spectrum is organised within the company, but how it aligns with their clients, the needs of the industry and global events. 

Having woken up early to go surfing before work, Adrien certainly has the energy to keep Lateral’s new ideas and innovations moving forward. Here, he writes for SuperYacht Times on how he makes it happen. Adrien Thoumazeau, Senior Naval Architect & Research Development Coordinator, Lateral Naval ArchitectsFrom an outward appearance, Lateral is very innovative. How is innovation fostered and developed inside the company?

Our innovation focus is very much cultivated by the focus of our business. In order to move our company forward, develop knowledge further and deliver our work in a more efficient manner we are constantly seeking to engage in as many opportunities as we can. This means we get involved with many parts of the superyacht eco-system across a very broad spectrum.  

It is also about mindset, it would be easy to think that we only engineer yachts, which in itself is a great vocation, but actually our wider purpose is to advance science through engineering, and in doing so make a better world. That sounds pretty audacious for a team of naval architects and marine engineers in Southampton, but great things are not borne out of having easily achievable goals.  
Lateral Naval ArchitectsHow do you decide on the specific focus of Lateral’s innovation activities? Is there a master plan or do you follow opportunities as they arise?

Often having a diverse spectrum of opportunities in the ‘cooking pot’ feels a little unstructured, and frequently it is, but over time many of the ideas in that pot become connected, themes become clear and alignments with client and industry needs as well as global events form, and at some point, there is a coalescence into a tangible and compelling narrative from which a project develops.  

A critical aspect is that we make sure we are focused on our business plan and that opportunities and ideas we are pursuing contribute towards Lateral’s business objectives. To give all this some structure and connect to that plan we have an innovation strategy that is guided by a framework we call Innovate123.  
Lateral Naval Architects Innovate 123Innovate 1 is about knowledge and thought leadership. We use the objectives within this pillar of the framework to focus on involvement in activities and collaboration with others to further knowledge and advance our industry.   

Innovate 2 is about our internal engineering processes. How do we execute our work faster, with better quality and continuous improvement for both our people and our output? We look at new tools and ways of doing things.  

Innovate 3 is about the product. Lateral is not a manufacturing company, we do not make a physical product, instead, we produce ideas and knowledge. This is more than a list of services we can offer; it is a development of intellectual property that has compelling value to its target audience.  
Aqua yacht design concept Photo: Lateral Naval ArchitectsLateral’s work is so often linked to other companies and specialists, what role does collaboration play in your innovation activities?

Collaboration is a key ingredient within all of our work, be that everyday engineering or developing ideas around future technologies. Critical to our innovation approach is that we do not limit our creativity to that developed within our own company, hoarding ideas often only impedes progress. Lateral believes that innovation benefits from collaboration and does so with a wide range of talented partners to learn, develop and bring ideas to life.  

We invest in carefully focused research and development to keep our knowledge at the cutting edge of technology, regulation and best practice. We extend our research and development skills into practical engineering applications and use these to deliver additional added value to our customers. Where appropriate we share the results of our research with industry and participate in numerous working groups to help further understanding and stay ahead of future regulation.  
Project Inception yacht concept profilePhoto: Isaac BurroughWhat’s the next big thing?

Our industry needs to adapt somewhat to remain compelling to future generations of buyers. Part of this adaptation will be how we develop and implement new technology to make it compelling to engage with the business and pleasure of superyachting. This will mean accepting more risk, because whilst you can innovate with relatively minimal risk, you cannot be a real innovator without taking quite a substantial risk.   

The pace of technical development in the wider fields of science and engineering will continue to accelerate. However, our industry does not have the throughput to keep pace with such rapid technical development and ensure simultaneously rapid adoption. To bring emerging technologies into the fundamental engineering of superyacht projects is challenging, and this will be the biggest challenge facing us in the near and long term; because our clients are asking for it today.  


To find out more about Lateral Naval Architects and their services, contact the company directly via the details found below.

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