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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: Vessels for aircraft. 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.

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

Vessels for aircraft is a key innovation area in shipping

Aircraft carrier ships are equipped with a full-length flight deck to carry, arm, deploy, and recover aircraft as part of military operations at sea. They serve as floating military bases for armed forces.

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 vessels for aircraft.

Key players in vessels for aircraft – 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 vessels for aircraft

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Nippon Steel 15 Unlock Company Profile
GWave 15 Unlock Company Profile
Naval Group 14 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 12 Unlock Company Profile
Big Moon Power 11 Unlock Company Profile
Aerodyn Engineering 10 Unlock Company Profile
Single Buoy Moorings 9 Unlock Company Profile
BW Offshore 8 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 8 Unlock Company Profile
Makani Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
IFP Energies nouvelles 6 Unlock Company Profile
Floating Windfarmsoration 6 Unlock Company Profile
Linnhoff Offshore 5 Unlock Company Profile
Federal State Budgetary Institution 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Naval Group is one of the leading patent filers in vessels for aircraft. It designs and builds a wide range of surface ships including aircraft carriers and amphibious helicopter carriers for military applications.

Other leading innovators in this space include Nippon Steel, GWave, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

In terms of application diversity, Single Buoy Moorings leads the pack, followed by Makani Technologies and BW Offshore. By geographic reach, GWave is the leading company, followed by Nippon Steel and Big Moon Power.

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.