Innovation has been flowing through the veins of the DCNS Group since its creation in the mid-17th century. Some of its technology breakthroughs – furtive frigate, first automatic deck landing of a drone on a cruising frigate, first land-based prototype for the production of ocean thermal energy – have more recently marked the industry’s history.
In a globalised world in which technology progresses at the speed of light and where markets are increasingly competitive, DCNS must maintain its lead to consolidate its position of world leader for naval defence and develop on the energy market.
The Group must therefore strengthen its research capacity to be in a position to renew its technologies. It is with this aim that it created DCNS Research in 2011, a technology research centre that brings together and supports personnel in their research on tomorrow’s concepts and tools. This centre of excellence, which brings together high-level engineers and technicians, has made collaborative research its driving force.
Collaboration, that’s what it’s all about.
As, far from the stereotypical image of the isolated researcher working alone in his laboratory, innovation is above all a collective process: from fundamental research to technology applications, it is a long process that allows us to go from an intuition to its technological application. Maturing, verification, validation then exploitation of a theory are the main steps along the path to innovation, and it is the sharing of know-how and experiences that allows these milestones to be successfully completed.
In conjunction with its national and international partners, and in close collaboration with public and academic laboratories, DCNS Research imagines and designs the technological revolutions of tomorrow, whether this is the virtual vessel, submarine noise footprint attenuation or the development of new marine energy sources.
This collective approach is a necessity to increase its competitiveness. Alain Bovis, director of DCNS Research, confirms this: “No matter how much know-how is brought together within a group such as DCNS, this will never be enough to keep up with the market’s tempo. The acceleration is such that the lead time to place innovative products on the market has become a key criterion. It is essential to move fast and to do this we must mobilise the best talents”.
At the heart of this need for collaborative research lies a problem, a technological barrier with which several companies are confronted, and which decide to join forces to find, together, a solution. Once this objective has been accomplished, each individually and specifically applies the fruits of this collaboration to its own products.
This type of research is conducted horizontally across several industrial groups of similar size and with comparable activities, and which may even be competitors on their markets. Thus, for certain manufacturing processes, DCNS collaborates with AIRBUS, STX or ALSTOM.
A vertical form of research may also be added to this horizontal collaborative research, which brings together a prime contractor and its suppliers in the resolution and exploration, for its own needs, of a problem identified in relation to a product or in the frame of a programme. This may even take the form of a project involving all the stakeholders of the industrial chain. This is the case for the Ship of the Future project, a safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient vessel that must allow an increase in the sector’s competitiveness on the international markets, whilst at the same time reducing its environmental impact.
DCNS uses both forms of collaboration, the first being more prevalent with DCNS Research for which collaborative research already represents 40% of its activities, and the second being used in design and engineering offices. A proportion that should grow over the next few years as not only does unity make strength it also fosters innovation.