The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is 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 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: switchable valve drivesBuy the report here.

Smarter leaders trust GlobalData


Premium Insights Innovation in Automotive: Switchable valve drives

Buy the Report

Premium Insights

The gold standard of business intelligence.

Find out more

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

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 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 switchable valve drives

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 32 Unlock Company Profile
CNH Industrial 4 Unlock Company Profile
Eaton 800 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 24 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 20 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 461 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 3 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 115 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 105 Unlock Company Profile
Yamaha Motor 33 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 5 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 4 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 9 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 9 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 4 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 73 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 23 Unlock Company Profile
Motonic 14 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 18 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 8 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 43 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 36 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 124 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 14 Unlock Company Profile
AVL List 27 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler Fifth Investment Management 3 Unlock Company Profile
Otics 63 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Eaton is the leading patent filer in switchable valve drives. 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 leading innovators in this technology domain include Schaeffler, Ford Motor, Hyundai Motor, and Cummins.

In terms of application diversity, Robert Bosch Stiftung held the top position, while Hitachi and Ford Motor stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Volvo leads the pack, followed by Mazda Motor and Denso.

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.