The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as nano lubricants and microelectronic circuits. 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: Engine lubrication circuits.

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

Engine lubrication circuits is a key innovation area in automotive

Engine lubrication circuit must ensure correct oil supply to all circuit components in all engine running conditions, varying the engine rpm and oil temperature. Lubrication circuits help to minimise wear and tear by securely closing the clearance between moving parts such as shafts, bearings, etc., in addition to serving as a cooling system.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of engine lubrication circuits.

Key players in engine lubrication circuits – 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 engine lubrication circuits

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Safran 128 Unlock company profile
Raytheon Technologies 119 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 54 Unlock company profile
IHI 43 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 38 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 27 Unlock company profile
BorgWarner 21 Unlock company profile
General Electric 21 Unlock company profile
UpStack 19 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi 12 Unlock company profile
Airbus 12 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 10 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 8 Unlock company profile
Taiho Kogyo 8 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Safran is a key player in the engine lubrication circuits innovation area. The company is engaged in the design, development, manufacture and maintenance of engine lubrication circuits. Safran’s engine lubrication circuits guard against fuel leaks caused due to a defective heat exchanger. The engine lubrication circuits pressurise the oil from the oil tank and distribute it around the engine parts requiring lubrication before cooling and filtering it prior to returning it to the tank. Rolls-Royce, Raytheon Technologies and IHI are some of the other key players.                       

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.