Structures consisting of two or more metals are often desirable in order to build on the relative advantages of the various materials. Expensive laser welding equipment used to join the different metals makes the technology prohibitive for small businesses. European researchers sought to enhance the competitive position of small European shipyards and their suppliers by developing laser joining technology via funding for the ‘Laser joining technologies for dissimilar material combinations’ (JODIS) project. Yachts and small ships benefit from the use of Al/steel structures as they reduce the weight in upper regions of the vessels. Currently, no direct bonding method exists for joining such materials with the thickness relevant to small vessel components (3–5 mm). However, technology for joining thin sheet materials is available. Researchers therefore aimed to adapt the thin sheet methodology, upscaling material thickness to 5 mm with a focus on Al/steel combinations with T- and butt-joint configurations. JODIS researchers produced Al/steel T-joints of thicknesses 3 mm or 5 mm using the laser/cold wire joining process. In addition, laser metal inert gas (MIG) hybrid welding was used to join 3 mm plates in butt-joint configuration. Finally, investigators produced Al/steel T- and butt-joints of 3 mm thickness using the double-sided cold metal transfer (CMT) process. Technology was transferred to SME partners who produced one metre-long joints of various configurations and designed concepts for side doors on yacht decks and beams for jet ski cranes. Advanced joining technology developed by the JODIS research consortium has the potential to enhance the competitive position of small European shipyards and their suppliers, thus boosting the economy while facilitating delivery of new and improved products for consumers.