The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in lightweight disc brakes is driven by electric and hybrid vehicles, fuel efficiency, regulatory compliance, and emissions reduction, and growing importance of technologies such as regenerative braking systems, thermal barrier coatings, and heat dissipation technologies. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: lightweight disc brakes. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

300+ 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 one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Lightweight disc brakes is a key innovation area in automotive

A lightweight disc brake refers to a type of braking system that utilizes a disc-shaped rotor and a caliper supporting a brake lining that is pressed against the rotor during braking. These disc brakes can be made from materials like cast iron alloys and are designed to provide reliable stopping power with reduced weight.

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 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of lightweight disc brakes.

Key players in lightweight disc brakes – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to lightweight disc brakes

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 43 Unlock Company Profile
COSCO Shipping 57 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Steel 30 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 113 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 53 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 32 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 152 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 25 Unlock Company Profile
Shimano 126 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 100 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 27 Unlock Company Profile
Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies 143 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 68 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 37 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 159 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 36 Unlock Company Profile
Sun Star 28 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 89 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 54 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 60 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 64 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 27 Unlock Company Profile
SRAM 40 Unlock Company Profile
PureForge 32 Unlock Company Profile
Boler 35 Unlock Company Profile
SAF-HOLLAND 109 Unlock Company Profile
Campagnolo 44 Unlock Company Profile
Stella Vermogensverwaltungs 342 Unlock Company Profile
Nuova FourB 343 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 51 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Nuova Fourb is one of the leading patent filers in lightweight disc brakes. The company uses carbon-ceramic composite materials in disc brake construction to offer a significant reduction in weight compared to traditional cast iron. Carbon-ceramic brakes provide improved heat resistance, reducing brake fade during high-performance use. Some other key patent filers in the space  include Stella Vermogensverwaltungs and Porsche Automobil.

In terms of application diversity, SRAM leads the pack. Ford Motor and Toyota Motor stood in the second and third positions respectively. By means of geographic reach, Westinghouse held the top position followed by Nippon Steel and SAF-HOLLAND.

To further understand the key themes and technologies 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.