The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for enhanced comfort and safety requirements, and growing importance of technologies such as 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: Switchable valve drives. Buy 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 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

Switchable valve drives is a key innovation area in automotive

A switchable valve drive is used for variable transmission of a stroke produced by one or more cam projections to a gas-exchange valve of an internal combustion engine.

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 switchable valve drives.

Key players in switchable valve drives – 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 switchable valve drives

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Eaton 449 Unlock company profile
Schaeffler 426 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 78 Unlock company profile
Otics 62 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 55 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 49 Unlock company profile
Cummins 44 Unlock company profile
BorgWarner 44 Unlock company profile
Yamaha Motor 32 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 32 Unlock company profile
Valeo 20 Unlock company profile
AVL List 18 Unlock company profile
Motonic 15 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 14 Unlock company profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 12 Unlock company profile
Kia 10 Unlock company profile
Mazda Motor 9 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 9 Unlock company profile
General Motors 9 Unlock company profile
Stellantis 9 Unlock company profile
Denso 7 Unlock company profile
Suzuki Motor 7 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Eaton is one of the leading innovators in switchable valve drives with 449 patents. The company has a portfolio of switchable valve drives to assist commercial vehicle manufacturers in complying with impending emissions regulations. Eaton’s power management products and services aim to enhance both human and environmental well-being. They provide environmentally friendly solutions which are safe, effective, and reliable in managing mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical power. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are KYB, Toyota, and Dana.

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.