May 24, 2016

Front End of Innovation // Using Aquatic Insights to Propel The McLaren P1


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By Peter Murane, Founder & CEO

I’m just back from the Front End of Innovation conference in Boston and processing the many interesting conversations I participated in and wonderful talks I attended. One that stands out for me was a keynote address by Frank Stephenson, Design Director at McLaren Automotive.

He’s had an amazing design career in the automotive industry and is always looking for inspiration and pushing his own creativity. To that end, Stephenson talked about his interest in biomimicry and its applications in automotive design.


The story goes that Stephenson was on holiday in the Caribbean and struck up a conversation with a local fisherman who had caught a beautiful sailfish. Stephenson became intrigued and learned through research that sailfish can hit speeds of 70 miles per hour underwater — that’s faster than any land animal. Apparently, speed is all in the scales. The skin of the sailfish generates little vortices that have the affect of allowing the fish to swim through a bubble of air instead of through denser water. The reduced drag results in accelerated speed.

Stephenson applied this insight to the air return ducts of the McLaren P1 hypercar, increasing the volume of airflow to the engine by 17%. Increased airflow improves engine efficiency, which really matters in a high-performance engine that can generate 903 horsepower.



All of this is interesting, right? To think that nature can inspire us from both a functional and aesthetic design perspective. But what really struck me personally about Stephenson’s talk was what he had to say about creative people. “We don’t give enough energy to the people who dream.”

That really struck a chord with me. There I was at this innovation conference and for two days all kinds of people were talking about their unique processes and approaches to innovation.

But I think Stephenson has it right. Without creative people there is no innovation, regardless of process. Without creative people there is no dreaming. No drawing. No questioning. No imagining.

So I wanted to acknowledge you dreamers out there. I know many of you personally and I also know how difficult it can sometimes be to go against the grain, challenge convention and dream ideas into reality. The work you do matters. So do it, push on and don’t take shit from anybody along the way.

– Peter

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