The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for achieving higher fuel efficiency, and enhanced driving experience, and growing importance of technologies such as electric, connected and autonomous vehicles. 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: Fuel cell ion exchange membranes.  Buy the report here.

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 

Fuel cell ion exchange membranes is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability 

The proton-exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), also referred to as the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEM), is a kind of fuel cell that is being developed as an alternative to batteries. These fuel cells can be utilised for applications in automotive as well as stationary fuel-cell applications and portable fuel-cell applications.

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 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of fuel cell ion exchange membranes. 

Key players in fuel cell ion exchange membranes – 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 fuel cell ion exchange membranes

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Fujifilm Holdings 118 Unlock company profile
Kolon 99 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 96 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 71 Unlock company profile
FuelCell Energy 67 Unlock company profile
Kia 53 Unlock company profile
NACCO Materials Handling Group 45 Unlock company profile
AGC 42 Unlock company profile
CEA 42 Unlock company profile
Toray Industries 40 Unlock company profile
Kolon Industries 40 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 39 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 37 Unlock company profile
Renaissance Energy Investment 34 Unlock company profile
Siemens 32 Unlock company profile
BASF 30 Unlock company profile
Meditor European Master Fund 27 Unlock company profile
Hyet Holding B V 26 Unlock company profile
ITM Power 25 Unlock company profile
Evoqua Water Technologies 24 Unlock company profile
LG 23 Unlock company profile
Kraton 23 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 22 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 20 Unlock company profile
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research 18 Unlock company profile
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 18 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 16 Unlock company profile
Linde 16 Unlock company profile
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin 15 Unlock company profile
ThyssenKrupp 15 Unlock company profile
Societe BIC 14 Unlock company profile
Core Energy Recovery Solutions 14 Unlock company profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 12 Unlock company profile
Membrion 11 Unlock company profile
Unique Global Possibilities Medical 11 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 11 Unlock company profile
Nuvera Fuel Cells 10 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 10 Unlock company profile
Samsung SDI 10 Unlock company profile
Naval Group 10 Unlock company profile
Breton 10 Unlock company profile
Shandong Huaxia Shenzhou New Materials Company 10 Unlock company profile
Mahle 9 Unlock company profile
Forschungszentrum Julich 9 Unlock company profile
TDK 9 Unlock company profile
General Motors 9 Unlock company profile
Electricite de France 9 Unlock company profile
Enapter 8 Unlock company profile
Nitto Denko 8 Unlock company profile
JGC Holdings 8 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Fujifilm is a leading patent filer in the fuel cell ion exchange membranes market with 118 patent applications. The company created a membrane portfolio to meet the needs of its customers, ranging from low electrical resistance membranes to low water permeating membranes with durability over a broad pH range. Kolon, Panasonic and Hyundai are a few of the top companies that are filing patents in the same field.

To further understand how environmental sustainability is 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.