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The shipping industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increasing global trade and commerce and the need for efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable sea transportation solutions, as well as growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial and augmented intelligence, advanced vessel operation monitoring systems, and hydrogen fuel cells. In the last three years alone, there have been over 67,000 patents filed and granted in the shipping industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Ship: Vessel internal combustion engine. Buy the report here.

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.

30+ innovations will shape the shipping industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the shipping industry using innovation intensity models built on over 25,000 patents, there are 30+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Vessel propulsion systems, gas turbine-propelled vessels, and vessel internal combustion engine are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are underwater drilling support systems and anti-fouling ship hull coatings, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the shipping industry

Vessel internal combustion engine is a key innovation area in shipping

Marine vessels may use different types of engines and propulsion systems. Diesel propulsion is the most used marine propulsion system involving the conversion thermal forces into mechanical energy. Two-stroke internal combustion engines are widely used with diesel as the primary fuel in this system.

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 shipping companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of vessel internal combustion engine.

Key players in vessel internal combustion engine – a disruptive innovation in the shipping 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 vessel internal combustion engine

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Korea Development Bank 508 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings 424 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 191 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 68 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 38 Unlock Company Profile
Naturgy Energy Group 18 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui E&S Holdings 18 Unlock Company Profile
AFC Mercury 16 Unlock Company Profile
Wartsila 15 Unlock Company Profile
DongHwa Entec 8 Unlock Company Profile
Linde 6 Unlock Company Profile
Engie 5 Unlock Company Profile
Halla 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) is the leading patent filer in vessel internal combustion engine. The South Korean shipbuilder filed patents related to marine propulsion engines that use liquefied fuel gas such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or dimethyl ether (DME), dual fuel diesel electric (DFDE) engines, fuel supply cut-off control systems for internal combustion engines and methods of supplying fuel for high-pressure natural gas injection engines.

Other leading innovators in the vessel internal combustion engine space include Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

In terms of application diversity, Halla leads the pack, followed by AFC Mercury and Naturgy Energy Group. By geographic reach, Linde is the leading company, followed by Engie and Kawasaki Heavy Industries

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

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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.