Académie des technologies

Laure Ducoulombier

  • Responsible R&D Design Lab
  • Bouygues Construction
  • 35 years old
  • Sponsored by François Bertière in 2023

Why a career in tech?

I have always been curious, and I wanted to understand how things work. As a child, I wanted to be an "inventor", I loved mathematics, I wanted to build a robot... But I believe that what interests me the most is not the technology itself, but the applications that are made possible thanks to it, and the combination we can make between several technologies to go even further.

Your professional experience?

Good in science, I naturally oriented myself towards two-year undergraduate intensive course in mathematics and then an engineering school. My "hands-on" side pushed me to choose a multi-disciplinary school. It was then somewhat by chance and above all thanks to encounters that I started to do a PhD with a big general contractor, Bouygues Construction, on the development of thermal insulation solutions.

Your first experience with technology?

When I arrived in the construction industry, I felt a real gap between the use of technologies as it was presented during school (where the curriculum included the use of digital tools for industry), and what was happening on a construction site. I then had the desire to work fill the gap the construction sector had taken in terms of digitalization but also industrialization, automation... The first project that I then pushed concerned additive manufacturing applied to construction. It led to a larger work program around Construction 4.0. This is when my research topics included more and more tech topics.

What do you do today, and why?

I am in charge of an R&D department at Bouygues Construction, which aims to develop digital solutions to help our businesses, particularly during the design phase. We are thus developing tools to make optimized design choices, to simulate or predict the behavior of structures upstream, but also to build better and in accordance with what was planned thanks to virtual or augmented reality.

Your strengths in this role?

My curiosity first allowed me to get into a field that was not mine (computing, data, AI…), then it takes a little passion, heart, to push transformation topics. Finally, given the diversity of the subjects, I think that my main asset is to accept that my teams are more expert than me in their fields, and to trust their analyses, while being able to challenge them.

Past challenges, failures and disappointments?

Frustrations rather failures: because when we take on subjects with passion, there are times when we find that things don't move fast enough, we don't understand that people don't adhere more, we would like more support … But it's part of learning to understand that the company's time is different from yours. And then when we look back, we realize that things finally happened and sometimes even exceeded our expectations.

Best moments, successes you’re proud of?

Having succeeded in launching a major research partnership with my former school. We were starting from scratch, we were proposing a new model of collaboration, on truly innovative subjects. It was a real challenge to convince the company to go there!

People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?

Many people have helped me, in the family, friendly or professional circle! My PhD supervisor as well as the various managers I have had have allowed me to grow, to understand, to draw inspiration from some of their practices, and sometimes to question myself. Colleagues also gave me a lot of energy and desire to act. It is the cocktail of all these actions of those around me that gradually guided me. I also want to mention my husband, because to lead a career and a family life with our three children, mutual aid is essential and daily between us.

Your hopes and future challenges?

I would like to go further on topics related to ecological transition and carbon issues. I am convinced that much more needs to be done to fight against global warming, the extinction of biodiversity, increasing pollution... I am involved in this on a personal and associative basis, but I would like to integrate these issues more into my professional activities.

What do you do when you don’t work?

I spend time with my family first, and especially my three young children. Then, I practice two regular activities: the vegetable garden, which is the place where I recharge my batteries, and football, where I spend my energy.

Your heroes -from History or fiction?

I don't have one specific hero/heroine, I think that we can draw inspiration from many great people, known or unknown, and that we should not fall into the cult of a single person. In general, I like people who have defended major causes with courage: Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Simone de Beauvoir, or more recently Greta Thunberg and many others. I also admire people who give themselves all the means to succeed through work and surpassing themselves, such as certain great athletes, artists or entrepreneurs.

A saying or proverb you like in particular?

“You have to choose your fights”. I am a fighter, but I have learned that you can quickly become exhausted by dispersing yourself. Choose what is essential and fight for it. If the rest is secondary, you can drop it without risk.

A book to take with you on a desert island?

I'm pragmatic, so I'd take a book that makes sure I can learn to fend for myself on a desert island! Otherwise I would take “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking because it is on my book list.

A message to young female professionals?

Stay yourself, anchored in your values, your style. Do not feel obliged to act like those around you if it does not suit you, and in particular to acquire virile behaviors that will not change the system. Cultivate your difference.


The questionnaire answered by the Women of Tech is a variant of the Proust questionnaire, named not because Marcel Proust got lost in the Paris metro, but in memory of Emilie du Chatelet, a woman of letters, mathematician and physicist, renowned for her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica and the dissemination of Leibniz's physics work. She was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Bologna Institute. Emilie du Chatelet led a free and fulfilled life during the era of the Enlightenment and published a speech on happiness.

Emilie Du Chatelet

Woman of letters, mathematician and physicist

1706 - 1749