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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.

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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.

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.

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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.