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: Supply chain management 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 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

Supply chain management systems is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence

Global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed problems in the hugely complex supply chains within the aerospace and defence industries. As such, supply chain management systems are being developed to help companies adapt their operations and secure their supply chains.

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 aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of supply chain management systems.

Key players in supply chain management systems – 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 fatty oil extraction

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Royal DSM 72 Unlock Company Profile
Bayer 50 Unlock Company Profile
Shell plc 24 Unlock Company Profile
Alfa Laval 15 Unlock Company Profile
HRD 13 Unlock Company Profile
Kao 8 Unlock Company Profile
Neste 8 Unlock Company Profile
John Bean Technologies 7 Unlock Company Profile
Martek Biosciences 7 Unlock Company Profile
Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Nuro is one of the leading patent filers in supply chain management systems. Nuro is utilising its existing technology, which is used at the moment in its driverless delivery vehicles, to reimagine supply chain processes. The technology of particular utility in this programme is the ability to synthesise and harmonise data collected from multiple sources, and for a procedural decision to be made. Some other key patent filers in the sector include Alphabet, International Business Machines, and Toyota Motor.

In terms of geographic reach, Alphabet leads the pack. SZ DJI Technology and Nuro stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of application diversity, Alphabet held the top position, followed by NEC, Continental, Toyota Motor, and Zipline.

Supply chain management systems are a requirement not limited to the aerospace and defence sector. However, aerospace and defence supply chains are uniquely complex and diverse, thus leading to patent filings from some companies in this domain.

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.