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: Fiber-reinforced material joining techniques.

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

Fibre-reinforced material joining techniques is a key innovation area in aerospace and defence

Fibre-reinforced material joining technique is the most commonly used technique of joining composite materials to other materials, including adhesive bonding, mechanical fastening, and a combination of bonding and fastening.

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 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of fibre-reinforced material joining techniques.

Key players in fibre-reinforced material joining techniques – 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’.

Boeing is the leading patent filer in fibre-reinforced material joining techniques, followed by Airbus and Safran . This dominance by aerospace companies is indicative of the fact that innovating in this sector is concentrated on building stronger joints for commercial aerospace, to provide increased safety, whilst reduce maintenance and overall costs. Developing hybrid technologies which combine two or more techniques may provide solutions, and creating more efficient systems through reducing weight and energy needs will also likely be a priority going forward. Other key patent filers in this industry include Mitsubishi , Textron and General Electric .

In terms of application diversity, Saudi Arabian Oil is top, followed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Toyobo . By geographic reach, Solvay is top, followed by Quickstep and Diehl Aircabin.

Innovation in this sector will continue in coming years, driven by major aerospace companies seeking to drive down costs whilst increasing safety though innovative techniques.

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

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.