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 vehicle heat exchangers.
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 vehicle heat exchangers is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability
Producing highly efficient fuel cells requires proper temperature control and thermal management to ensure consistent operation of the fuel cell system. Depending on the fuel cell type, the optimum temperature ranges from room temperature to 1000ºC, and deviations from the designed temperature range can lead to reduced efficiency.
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 vehicle heat exchangers.
Key players in fuel cell vehicle heat exchangers – 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 heat exchangers. The company is a leader in the development of hydrogen powered aircraft, in which fuel cells, and fuel cell heat exchangers, are essential components. It is aiming to introduce hydrogen aircraft in 2035 under its ZEROe programme. 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 Raytheon Technologies coming in behind. Naval Group holds the patents with the most geographic reach regarding fuel cell heat exchangers, followed by Safran and Airbus .
Fuel cell heat exchangers are essential components of fuel cell technology, and hydrogen powered aircraft more generally. They allow fuel cells to run at maximum efficiency and increase safety, both key considerations in the development of aircraft components. Both consumer and regulatory pressure are driving investment in green aviation technologies, such as fuel cell heat exchangers.
To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the aerospace and defence industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Defence.