The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for regulatory compliance, fuel efficiency and emission reduction, and growing importance of technologies such as nano additives, electrorheological (ER) and magnetorheological (MR) lubricants. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: advanced bearing lubricants. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Advanced bearing lubricants is a key innovation area in automotive

Advanced bearing lubricants pertain to tailor-made lubricant formulations intended for application in rolling bearings, sliding mechanisms, and ball joints. These lubricants showcase characteristics such as reduced friction, superior thermal conductivity, heightened control reliability, and increased longevity. Their composition includes distinct base oils, thickening agents, additives, and occasionally conductive carbon or thermally conductive powder particles, all aimed at amplifying their effectiveness.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of advanced bearing lubricants.

Key players in advanced bearing lubricants – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to advanced bearing lubricants

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NOK 8 Unlock Company Profile
NTT 95 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Oil 3 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 24 Unlock Company Profile
ABB 1 Unlock Company Profile
MITSUBA 3 Unlock Company Profile
NSK 141 Unlock Company Profile
Japan Energy 3 Unlock Company Profile
MinebeaMitsumi 13 Unlock Company Profile
Idemitsu Kosan 15 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 18 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 18 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ricoh 8 Unlock Company Profile
SKF 118 Unlock Company Profile
NTN 75 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 14 Unlock Company Profile
LUBE 8 Unlock Company Profile
ENEOS 15 Unlock Company Profile
JTEKT 93 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 11 Unlock Company Profile
Seiko Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Oiles 17 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 9 Unlock Company Profile
China FAW Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Brose Fahrzeugteile 1 Unlock Company Profile
Seiko Instruments 3 Unlock Company Profile
Kyodo Yushi 106 Unlock Company Profile
Graphene Platform 172 Unlock Company Profile
Dow 7 Unlock Company Profile
Porite 5 Unlock Company Profile
Societe Nouvelle de Roulements 1 Unlock Company Profile
JX Nippon Oil and Energy 3 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Graphene Platform is one of the key patent filers in advanced baring lubricants. Graphene Platform specializes in the development and application of graphene-based materials into lubricants called graphene-infused lubricants. These lubricants offer superior wear resistance and reduced friction, resulting in less energy loss, lower maintenance requirements, and potentially improved fuel efficiency in automotive applications. Graphene's exceptional lubricity and low-friction properties can reduce wear and friction in bearing applications, extending the lifespan of bearings, and enhancing their performance. NSK, Kyodo Yushi, and SKF are some of the other key patent filers in advanced-bearing lubricants.

In terms of application diversity, Oiles leads the pack, while Graphene Platform and Brose Fahrzeugteile stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Graphene Platform held the top position, followed by Denso and Nissan Motor.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.