The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by zero carbon emission initiatives and environmental management and control, and growing importance of technologies such as energy storage systems, grid integration with renewable energy, and carbon capture and storage. In the last three years alone, there have been over 439,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Power: Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. 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 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.

90+ 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 83,000 patents, there are 90+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart lighting system, PCM thermal energy storage and solid electrolyte fuel cell membrane are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Ceramic oxide nuclear fuel, geothermal heat pumps, and hybrid PV plants are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are combined-cycle gas turbines and ethylene co-polymer PV modules, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the power industry

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) employ an electrochemical energy conversion technology for direct conversion of chemical energy into electricity.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells.

Key players in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells – a disruptive innovation in the power 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 proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
AGC 167 Unlock Company Profile
Daikin Industries 83 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 57 Unlock Company Profile
3M 47 Unlock Company Profile
Kraton 40 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 32 Unlock Company Profile
Kuraray 26 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 23 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 16 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung SDI 11 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Huaxia Shenzhou New Materials Company 11 Unlock Company Profile
Sang-A Frontec 10 Unlock Company Profile
Solvay 6 Unlock Company Profile
Daunia Solar Cell 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

AGC and Daikin Industries held the top positions towards patent filings. AGC, formerly known as Asahi Glass, is a Japanese global glass manufacturing company. Recently in May 2022, the company was awarded Industrial Contribution Award of the FCDIC Honoring System for FY 2021” from the Fuel Cell Development Information Center for FORBLUETM i-series electrolyte polymer dispersion for fuel cells. The company is contributing towards fuel cell development and related industry advancements through its products. Daikin Industries is a leading innovator and provider of advanced, high-quality air conditioning solutions. The company provides fluoropolymer films that has wide applications in release films, architectural films and photovoltaic systems.

In terms of geographic reach, Krayton and Daunia Solar Cell leads. Krayton offers NEXAR® MD9200 and MD9150 products as a polymer in solution or a polymer membrane. While in terms of application diversity, Asahi Kasei filed the maximum number of patents. In September 2021, the company launched new services for membrane process chlor-alkali electrolysis. Also, in April 2021, Asahi Kasei’s Specialty Solutions SBU launched a Customer Success Department in the Ion Exchange Membrane Business Unit of its Membrane Solutions Division to advance the new services.

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.