The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by factors such as proper transmission of torque from engine to drivetrain and improving vehicle efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as friction and hydraulic actuated clutches. 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: Fluid actuated clutches.

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

Fluid actuated clutches is a key innovation area in automotive

A fluid actuated clutch is a device used in cars and is operated by hydraulic fluid. A hydraulic clutch moves the clutch plate using a fluid that is kept in a reservoir instead of using a cable. The clutch does not require pedal height adjustments and it automatically adjusts itself using the clutch fluid.

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 fluid actuated clutches.

Key players in fluid actuated clutches – 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 fluid actuated clutches

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Schaeffler 489 Unlock company profile
Valeo 99 Unlock company profile
Aisin 76 Unlock company profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 65 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 45 Unlock company profile
BorgWarner 37 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 29 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 24 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 23 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 17 Unlock company profile
Allison Transmission Holdings 17 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 16 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 14 Unlock company profile
Kia 12 Unlock company profile
Magna International 12 Unlock company profile
General Motors 9 Unlock company profile
Unipres 7 Unlock company profile
Subaru 5 Unlock company profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Schaeffler is one of the leading patent filers in fluid actuated clutches. In Schaeffler’s fluid actuated clutches, the roller raises the fluid after the clutch spins in a clockwise direction. The company’s fluid clutches also help in delivering better fuel economy as well as having less wear and tear than a manual clutch. Other major patent filers in the innovation area are Toyota Motor, BorgWarner, Aisin, and Kia.

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.