The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by developments in catalytic converters, which is found to be one of the most effective tools to reduce the undesirable pollutants in the environment, and growing importance of technologies such as oxidation catalyst (OC), three-way catalyst & oxidation catalyst (TWC-OC). 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 Environmental sustainability in Automotive: Catalytic converters

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, EV discharge prediction, fuel cell ion exchange membranes, and hydrogen ICE fuel tanks are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. V2G smart metering, silicon-air batteries, and zeolites for exhaust filtering are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are HEV propulsion systems and wind-powered vehicles, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the automotive industry 

Catalytic converters is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

A catalytic converter is a component that attaches to the front of an automobile's exhaust system, near the engine. It lowers the quantity of gaseous pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons, that are released into the environment. A car's efficiency, which has a direct impact on the health and performance of the entire vehicle, is enhanced by a properly maintained catalytic converter. 

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of catalytic converters. 

Key players in catalytic converters – 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 catalytic converters

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toyota Motor 268 Unlock company profile
Johnson Matthey 257 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 211 Unlock company profile
BASF 116 Unlock company profile
General Motors 96 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 76 Unlock company profile
Isuzu Motors 67 Unlock company profile
Yanmar Holdings 65 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 63 Unlock company profile
Denso 46 Unlock company profile
Komatsu 44 Unlock company profile
Aisin 40 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 40 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 40 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 39 Unlock company profile
Continental 38 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 36 Unlock company profile
Shandong Heavy Industry Group 29 Unlock company profile
Tata Motors 29 Unlock company profile
Renault 28 Unlock company profile
Kia 25 Unlock company profile
YANMAR POWER TECHNOLOGY 19 Unlock company profile
LG 18 Unlock company profile
FEV 18 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 17 Unlock company profile
CNH Industrial 14 Unlock company profile
Haldor Topsoe Holding 13 Unlock company profile
Nippon Shokubai 12 Unlock company profile
Cummins 12 Unlock company profile
Aptiv 12 Unlock company profile
BorgWarner 11 Unlock company profile
Caterpillar 10 Unlock company profile
Umicore 8 Unlock company profile
Tenneco 8 Unlock company profile
E.ON 8 Unlock company profile
Kobe Steel 8 Unlock company profile
IBIDEN 8 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 7 Unlock company profile
Subaru 6 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 6 Unlock company profile
Eberspacher Gruppe 6 Unlock company profile
Pan Asia 6 Unlock company profile
Korea Electric Power 6 Unlock company profile
Kubota 6 Unlock company profile
AVL List 5 Unlock company profile
Alstom 5 Unlock company profile
Ark Holdings 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota Motors engages in the development, manufacture, and trading of catalytic converters. The company currently holds 268 filed patents in catalytic converters for the automotive industry segment. Other companies innovating catalytic converters for the automotive industry are Johnson Matthey, Porsche Automobil, and General Motors

To further understand how environmental sustainability is 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.