The aerospace and defence industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to lower operational costs, larger consumer trends, and electrification, and growing importance of technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft 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 Environment Sustainability in Aerospace, Defence & Security: Fuel cell reactant cartridges.

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, hydrogen fuel cells, aircraft powertrain control, and fuel cells for aircraft are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. EV charging stations, battery management systems, and electric aircraft charging interfaces are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are fuselage frame modelling and powered wheels for aircraft landing, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the aerospace and defence industry

Fuel cell reactant cartridges is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

A fuel cell is a type of galvanic cell that can replenish reactants to provide a continuous source of energy. Fuel cell cartridges and fuel cell systems are new energy technologies developed to provide more efficient, long-lasting renewable sources of energy for electrically powered devices.

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 aerospace and defence companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of fuel cell reactant cartridges.

Key players in fuel cell reactant cartridges – 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’.

Airbus is one of the leading patent filers in fuel cell reactant cartridges. The company is a leader in the development of hydrogen powered aircraft, in which fuel cells are an essential component. It is aiming to introduce hydrogen aircraft in 2035 under its ZEROe programme. Fuel cell reactant cartridges have the potential to enhance the energy potential of fuel cells, increasing their applicability in aircraft propulsion. Other key patent filers in the aerospace and defence industry include Safran , Raytheon Technologies , and Boeing.

In terms of application diversity, the leading patent filer is Boeing, with Textron and Diehl Stiftung coming in behind. Naval Group holds the patents with the most geographic reach regarding fuel cell heat exchangers, followed by Diehl Stiftung and Safran .

Fuel cell reactants are enhancing components of fuel cell technology, and for hydrogen powered aircraft more generally. They allow fuel cells to run at maximum efficiency, a key consideration in the development of aircraft components. Both consumer and regulatory pressure are driving investment in green aviation technologies, such as fuel cell reactant cartridges.

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.