The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the extensive use of expandable microsphere foams, and growing importance of technologies such as electromechanical actuators, sensors, and air brakes, and 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 Innovation in Automotive: Expandable microsphere foams.
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
Expandable microsphere foams is a key innovation area in automotive
An expandable microsphere is a substance that can function as a blowing agent when combined with a product and heated to cause expansion within the matrix. Microsphere foaming is a type of core-shell structure, with an alkane gas-filled plastic sphere that serves as the core and a thermoplastic polymer shell that can release hydrocarbons.
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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of expandable microsphere foams.
Key players in expandable microsphere foams – 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 expandable microsphere foams
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
Dow, with 139 patents, is one of the top companies to file for expandable microsphere foams patents. The company is accelerating its plans to offer product and process enhancements such as low density, improved dimensional stability, increased impact strength, smoother surface finish, greater thermal insulation, and cost savings. BASF, NIKE, and Kaneka are a few other notable patent filers in the same industry.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive.