The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the uptake of advanced technology, and growing importance of technologies such as hypersonics and advanced materials. In the last three years alone, there have been over 174,000 patents filed and granted in the aerospace and defence industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Aircraft environment control system. 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. 

180+ innovations will shape the aerospace and defence industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry using innovation intensity models built on over 262,000 patents, there are 180+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, bonded fibre laminates, thermoplastic elastomer laminates, and vibration supression devices are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Centrifugal fan impellers, ceramic composite laminates, and gas turbine engine testing are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are protective blade coatings and blade alloy welding, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for the aerospace and defence industry 

Aircraft environment control system is a key emerging innovation area in aerospace and defence

The Environmental Control System (ECS) is one of the most power-hungry systems on civil aircraft, excluding propulsion systems. It provides air supply, thermal control and cabin pressurisation. 

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 aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of aircraft environment control system. 

Key players in aircraft environment control system – a disruptive innovation in the aerospace and defence 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 aircraft environment control system

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Raytheon Technologies 1218 Unlock Company Profile
Airbus 969 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 489 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 207 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 164 Unlock Company Profile
Liebherr-International 108 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 108 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 87 Unlock Company Profile
Bombardier 76 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 53 Unlock Company Profile
General Dynamics 31 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 29 Unlock Company Profile
IHI 29 Unlock Company Profile
Embraer 29 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 25 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsche Lufthansa 23 Unlock Company Profile
Spirit AeroSystems Holdings 17 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 14 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 14 Unlock Company Profile
Israel Aerospace Industries 13 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 12 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Aircabin 12 Unlock Company Profile
Leonardo 12 Unlock Company Profile
Senior 9 Unlock Company Profile
Advent International 9 Unlock Company Profile
Schneider Electric 9 Unlock Company Profile
Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault 9 Unlock Company Profile
Nifco 8 Unlock Company Profile
Hutchinson 7 Unlock Company Profile
J.F. Lehman & Co 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Astronics 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kitty Hawk 7 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Aviation Laupheim 7 Unlock Company Profile
COSCO Shipping Holdings 7 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell Aerospace 7 Unlock Company Profile
Diehl Stiftung 7 Unlock Company Profile
Teknoware 6 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 6 Unlock Company Profile
Eaton 6 Unlock Company Profile
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt 6 Unlock Company Profile
Esco Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Triumph Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 5 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou EHang Intelligent Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile
C Series Aircraft Partnership 5 Unlock Company Profile
Agency For Defense Development 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Raytheon is the largest patent filer in the area, and is pursuing innovative solutions to applying AECS to military aircraft, whilst reducing the amount of power required. It is followed by Boeing and Airbus due to their leading positions in the civil aviation space. Both companies are likely to pursue AECS, which utilise less power and eradicate any existing faults. Other key patent filers in the sector include Safran, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric

In terms of application diversity, Diehl Aircabin is the leading company, followed by Deutsche Lufthansa and Teknoware. By geographic spread, Diehl Aircabin is a leader, followed by Astronics and Tekonware. 

Companies will increasingly file patents aimed at creating more efficient systems that use less power, thus creating aircraft that are cheaper to run and likely needing less maintenance. Innovations are expected in both the military and civil space. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Defence

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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.