The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for lower fuel consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, economical engines and increasing global vehicle production, and growing importance of technologies such as gasoline direct injection and diesel direct injection. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Direct injection type engines.

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 stabilising 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.

290+ 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 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Direct injection type engines is a key innovation area in automotive

Diesel Direct Injection (DI) is a simple kind of fuel injection system, which was utilised by many previous generation diesel engines. The basic DI diesel engines inject the fuel into the combustion chamber exactly above the piston. The compression of air within the combustion chamber increases its temperature above 400oC.

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 50 companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of direct injection type engines.

Key players in direct injection type engines – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to direct injection type engines

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Ford Motor 474 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 266 Unlock company profile
General Motors 174 Unlock company profile
Mazda Motor 136 Unlock company profile
Hitachi 134 Unlock company profile
IHI 82 Unlock company profile
Mcalister Technologies 80 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 74 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 68 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 65 Unlock company profile
Winterthur Gas & Diesel 63 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 60 Unlock company profile
Denso 55 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 49 Unlock company profile
Renault 47 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 35 Unlock company profile
Yamaha Motor 35 Unlock company profile
Husqvarna 35 Unlock company profile
BRP 33 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 31 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 30 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Motors 25 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 24 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 22 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings 22 Unlock company profile
Polaris 21 Unlock company profile
IFP Energies nouvelles 21 Unlock company profile
Caterpillar 20 Unlock company profile
Yamabiko 19 Unlock company profile
Continental 15 Unlock company profile
Ningbo Daye Garden Machinery 15 Unlock company profile
Stellantis 14 Unlock company profile
Henkel & Co 14 Unlock company profile
Ricardo 13 Unlock company profile
Kia 12 Unlock company profile
Keihin 12 Unlock company profile
Suzuki Motor 12 Unlock company profile
Subaru 11 Unlock company profile
DeltaHawk Engines 10 Unlock company profile
Ultramo Engines 10 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Electric 10 Unlock company profile
LiquidPiston 10 Unlock company profile
Hitachi Zosen 9 Unlock company profile
Lotus Group International 9 Unlock company profile
Freevalve 8 Unlock company profile
Petroleo Brasileiro 8 Unlock company profile
GE Jenbacher & OHG 8 Unlock company profile
IP Tech 7 Unlock company profile
EcoMotors International 5 Unlock company profile
Westport Power 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Ford Motor has been a key player in the direct injection type engines innovation area. EcoBoost is Ford’s most technologically advanced engine ever delivering up to 20% better fuel efficiency with outstanding performance. Ford engineers combined three key technologies designed to save fuel and boost power: direct fuel injection, variable camshaft timing, and turbocharging. An advanced software programme ensures their seamless performance. Toyota Motor, Mazda Motor, General Motors and Hitachi are some of the other key players in the innovation area.

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


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.