The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in variable geometry turbochargers is driven by emissions regulations, engine downsizing, fuel economy, improved towing and hauling capability, and growing importance of technologies such as variable vanes or nozzles, actuators, and control mechanisms. 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: variable geometry turbochargers. Buy 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 Foresights, 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 handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of 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

Variable geometry turbochargers is a key innovation area in automotive

Variable geometry turbochargers, abbreviated as VGTs, represent turbocharger variants engineered for enhancing engine performance through the regulation of exhaust gas flow directed to the turbine wheel. These turbochargers incorporate adaptable vanes capable of altering the turbine inlet's dimensions and configuration to uphold an optimal balance between exhaust gas flow and compressor boost pressure across various engine speeds.

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 variable geometry turbochargers.

Key players in variable geometry turbochargers – 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 variable geometry turbochargers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 52 Unlock Company Profile
CNH Industrial 27 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 171 Unlock Company Profile
FountainVest Partners 140 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 284 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 738 Unlock Company Profile
ABB 156 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 32 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 104 Unlock Company Profile
Benteler International 59 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 80 Unlock Company Profile
Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies 58 Unlock Company Profile
Cummins 362 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 91 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 110 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 684 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 121 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 56 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 68 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 219 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 1307 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 822 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 325 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 58 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 251 Unlock Company Profile
Bosch Mahle Turbo Systems 244 Unlock Company Profile
Garrett Motion 545 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

BorgWarner is one of the key patent filers in variable geometry turbochargers. The company has innovated in the design of advanced variable vanes within variable geometry turbochargers (VGTs), optimizing vane shapes, materials, or configurations to improve aerodynamics, responsiveness, and efficiency across a broader range of engine operating conditions. BorgWarner’s innovations focus on refining the aerodynamic profiles of turbine and compressor components within VGTs to achieve higher efficiency, reduced losses, and improved overall turbocharger performance. Some other patent filers in this space include  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI.

In terms of application diversity, CNH Industrial leads the pack, while Ford Motor and United Technologies stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Benteler International held the top position, followed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Volvo.

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.