The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for proper transmission of torque and improving vehicle efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as electrification, and connected and autonomous vehicles. 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: multi-lamellar clutchesBuy 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 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 Foresight, 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 handing are useful technologies that are in the early stages of wider 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

Multi-lamellar clutches is a key innovation area in automotive

An automobile vehicle's multi-plate clutch increases the amount of power sent from the engine to the transmission shaft while also making up for torque loss brought on by slippage. This type of clutch is mostly used by heavy equipment, commercial vehicles, military vehicles, racing cars, and motorcycles.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of multi-lamellar clutches.

Key players in multi-lamellar clutches – 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 multi-lamellar clutches

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Eaton 7 Unlock Company Profile
Magna International 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 24 Unlock Company Profile
Tata Motors 7 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 3 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 15 Unlock Company Profile
Toyo Tire 2 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 118 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 520 Unlock Company Profile
NSK 12 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely 5 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 25 Unlock Company Profile
Aisin 21 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 31 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 23 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 33 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 4 Unlock Company Profile
Unipres 5 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 17 Unlock Company Profile
Univance 5 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 50 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 20 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 5 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 9 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Transys 2 Unlock Company Profile
Getrag Getriebe- Und Zahnradfabrik Hermann Hagenme 19 Unlock Company Profile
Erae Ams 2 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 26 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Schaeffler is the leading patent filer in multi-lamellar clutches. Schaeffler’s multi-lamellar clutches enable all-wheel drive and thereby improve vehicle acceleration, handling, and safety. The clutches work by transferring the torque from an incoming shaft to an outgoing shaft through a series of lubricated steel disc surfaces also called lamella pack. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are Valeo, BorgWarner, Porsche Automobil, and Nissan Motor.

In terms of application diversity, General Motors held the top position, while Toyota Motor and Stellantis stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nissan Motor leads the pack, followed by Toyota Motor and Aisin.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive.

Premium Insights


The gold standard of business intelligence.

Blending expert knowledge with cutting-edge technology, GlobalData’s unrivalled proprietary data will enable you to decode what’s happening in your market. You can make better informed decisions and gain a future-proof advantage over your competitors.


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.