The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by enhanced driving experience, fuel efficiency, and engine performance, and growing importance of technologies such as electromechanical actuators, electrification, 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: Piston head combustion chambers.

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

Piston head combustion chambers is a key innovation area in automotive

Most combustion chambers in a diesel engine are formed in the piston crown. Engines use the squish effect to push the mixture at the chamber's edges in the direction of the moving flame in front. The speed at which the mixture is forced inwards is influenced by several variables, such as the size and shape of the squish, the engine stroke, and the engine speed. As the piston descends, the opposite occurs, and the enflamed volume is drawn out toward the chamber's edges.

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of piston head combustion chambers.

Key players in piston head combustion chambers – 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 piston head combustion chambers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Mazda Motor 238 Unlock company profile
Tenneco 120 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 87 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 83 Unlock company profile
Caterpillar 50 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 42 Unlock company profile
Federal-Mogul 35 Unlock company profile
Ningbo Daye Garden Machinery 34 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 32 Unlock company profile
Kia 29 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 28 Unlock company profile
Mahle 27 Unlock company profile
Doosan Infracore 23 Unlock company profile
Shandong Heavy Industry Group 22 Unlock company profile
General Motors 22 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 21 Unlock company profile
Icahn Enterprises 20 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 19 Unlock company profile
Suzuki Motor 18 Unlock company profile
Denso 16 Unlock company profile
IFP Energies nouvelles 13 Unlock company profile
Renault 13 Unlock company profile
Isuzu Motors 13 Unlock company profile
AVL List 13 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 12 Unlock company profile
Dongfeng commercial vehicle 11 Unlock company profile
Subaru 11 Unlock company profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 11 Unlock company profile
CONTOUR HARDENING 11 Unlock company profile
Institut Francais du Petrole (IFP) 11 Unlock company profile
Rheinmetall 10 Unlock company profile
MWM 10 Unlock company profile
NGK Insulators 9 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 8 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 8 Unlock company profile
Wartsila 8 Unlock company profile
Fuji Heavy Industries 8 Unlock company profile
BorgWarner 7 Unlock company profile
Continental 7 Unlock company profile
GE Jenbacher & OHG 7 Unlock company profile
Ricardo 7 Unlock company profile
IMAGINEERING 7 Unlock company profile
China FAW Group 6 Unlock company profile
Centro Ricerche Fiat 6 Unlock company profile
Kohler 6 Unlock company profile
Yanmar Holdings 6 Unlock company profile
Zajac Optimum Output Motors 6 Unlock company profile
Yamabiko 5 Unlock company profile
Corning 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Mazda is one of the leading innovators in piston head combustion chambers with 238 patents. The company is focusing on the development of an innovative hybrid lightweight piston for marine engines, which aims to lower operating costs and emissions. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are Mahle, Nissan, and Renault.

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.