The power industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the rising demand for electricity, shift away from fossil fuel-powered generation and the need for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and growing importance of technologies such as heat exchangers and cooling systems. In the last three years alone, there have been over 656,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in power: nuclear reactor cooling systems. 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 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.
40+ innovations will shape the power industry
According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the power industry using innovation intensity models built on over 70,000 patents, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.
Within the emerging innovation stage, variable speed gas turbines is disruptive technology that is in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Perovskite photoactive layering, power distribution control system, and CAES gas turbine are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are geothermal heat pumps and prepaid electricity metering, which are now well established in the industry.
Innovation S-curve for the power industry
Nuclear reactor cooling systems is a key innovation area in renewable energy
Most reactor systems employ a cooling system that is physically separated from the water that will be boiled to produce pressurised steam for the turbines, like the pressurized water reactor. However, in some reactors the water for the steam turbines is boiled directly by the reactor core, for example the boiling water reactor.
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 power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of nuclear reactor cooling systems.
Key players in nuclear reactor cooling systems – a disruptive innovation in the power 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 nuclear reactor cooling systems
|Company||Total patents (2010 - 2022)||Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies|
|China General Nuclear Power Corp||238||Unlock Company Profile|
|Toshiba Corp||147||Unlock Company Profile|
|General Electric Co||118||Unlock Company Profile|
|Korea Electric Power Corp||112||Unlock Company Profile|
|National Amusements, Inc.||101||Unlock Company Profile|
|Hitachi Ltd||72||Unlock Company Profile|
|BWX Technologies Inc||69||Unlock Company Profile|
|Joint Stock Company Atomkomplekt||69||Unlock Company Profile|
|Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd||63||Unlock Company Profile|
|Electricite de France SA||59||Unlock Company Profile|
|Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc||53||Unlock Company Profile|
|Naval Group||51||Unlock Company Profile|
|Fluor Corp||46||Unlock Company Profile|
|Brookfield Corp||43||Unlock Company Profile|
|The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission||40||Unlock Company Profile|
|State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom||39||Unlock Company Profile|
|China General Nuclear Power Corp||35||Unlock Company Profile|
|Holtec International Inc||30||Unlock Company Profile|
|Joint Stock Company Science and Innovations||23||Unlock Company Profile|
|CEA||20||Unlock Company Profile|
|King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy||17||Unlock Company Profile|
|Flowserve Corp||17||Unlock Company Profile|
|CEZ, AS||11||Unlock Company Profile|
|Sichuan Xingzhi Zhihui Intellectual Property Operation Co Ltd||9||Unlock Company Profile|
|Fujikura Ltd||6||Unlock Company Profile|
|Okano Valve Mfg. Co Ltd||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|Societe Technique pour l’Energie Atomique SA||5||Unlock Company Profile|
|Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT OY||4||Unlock Company Profile|
|Terrestrial Energy Inc||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Changs Ascending Enterprise Co Ltd||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Uni-President China Holdings Ltd||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|Siemens AG||3||Unlock Company Profile|
|TerraPower LLC||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|Curtiss-Wright Corp||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|China Ship Development And Design Center||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|Energia-Eco Sp. z o.o.||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|Oklo Inc.||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|AE Industrial Partners LP||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|AREVA TA||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|Honeywell International Inc||2||Unlock Company Profile|
|Lingyun||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Huaneng Shandong Shidao Bay Nuclear Power Co., Ltd.||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|IMI Plc||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Hatch Ltd||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Korea Nuclear Fuel Co Ltd||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Department of Atomic Energy, India||1||Unlock Company Profile|
|Shenzhen CGN Engineering Design Co Ltd||1||Unlock Company Profile|
Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics
China General Nuclear Power, Toshiba, General Electric, and BWX Technologies (BWXT) are among the top patent filers for nuclear reactor cooling systems. BWXT is a specialty manufacturer of nuclear components. It designs, engineers, and manufactures precision naval nuclear components, reactors, and nuclear fuel components. BWXT has a wide range of SPIG cooling systems product lines and supplies an extensive range of turnkey cooling systems globally.
Hitachi is another key patent filer for nuclear reactor cooling systems, which offers advanced reactors, reactor components and nuclear service. Hitachi collaborated with General Electric and formed Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, with experience in the nuclear energy business, and is working within that field, while promoting highly reliable manufacturing and services practices. Hitachi’s contribution to Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy includes Nuclear Reactor Cooling (High-Pressure Alternate Cooling System), Corium Shield, Plate-type Heat Exchanger, and Corium Buffer.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the power industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Power.