The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the heightened focus on improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, robotics and cloud computing. 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: plasma-jet ignitionBuy 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 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

Plasma-jet ignition is a key innovation area in automotive

The plasma ignition system is a direct ignition device that mixes 1 kW class microwave energy at a frequency of 2.45GHz in the pathway of a high voltage that is delivered to the spark plug from the second coil of the ignition device. It can output both spark by a high voltage and microwave energy from a spark plug tip.

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 plasma-jet ignition.

Key players in plasma-jet ignition – 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 plasma-jet ignition

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rosenberger Hochfrequenztechnik 12 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 132 Unlock Company Profile
Sokensha 3 Unlock Company Profile
GE Jenbacher 7 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 26 Unlock Company Profile
Dongfeng Motor 3 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely 4 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 17 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 21 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 42 Unlock Company Profile
Orbital 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 55 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 8 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 5 Unlock Company Profile
NGK Spark Plug 4 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 5 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 15 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 50 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 25 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 6 Unlock Company Profile
Makita 11 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 105 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 59 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 11 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 8 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 77 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 4 Unlock Company Profile
IMAGINEERING 17 Unlock Company Profile
Stihl 3 Unlock Company Profile
Eldor 10 Unlock Company Profile
Shindengen Electric Manufacturing 10 Unlock Company Profile
Walbro 7 Unlock Company Profile
INNIO Jenbacher 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota is one of the leading innovators in plasma-jet ignition. The company has developed a cutting-edge ignition system that substitutes the standard spark plugs in an automobile's engine with an ignition module that ignites the fuel/air mixture inside the cylinder using extremely brief (nanosecond) plasma pulses. Other leading innovators in this technology domain are Denso, Ford Motor, BorgWarner, and Hitachi.

In terms of application diversity, Makita held the top position, while GE Jenbacher and INNIO Jenbacher stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Rosenberger Hochfrequenztechnik leads the pack, followed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Shindengen Electric Manufacturing.

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.