Each week, Railway Technology journalists analyse data on patent filings and grants that illustrate innovation trends in our sector. These patent signals show where the leading companies are focusing their research and development investment and why. We uncover key innovation areas in the sector and the themes that drive them.   

This new thematic patents coverage is powered by our underlying Disruptor data which tracks all major deals, patents, company filings, hiring patterns and social media buzz across our sectors.   

Supply chain-based patents have dominated the transport, infrastructure and logistics industry in the first half of 2023 with over 6,500 total publications touching on the theme, over 2,000 more than the next biggest theme, Environment. 

The prevalence of supply chain patents, 20% of the total patent publications filed this year in the industry, makes sense when taken in the context of the post-pandemic world which is trying to adapt to drastic changes in the supply chain, especially in light of other significant disruptions such as the war in Ukraine. 

The effect of the pandemic is also seen in the significant number of patents looking at the future of work, 2,752, as the industry seeks to adapt to a workforce now used to a hybrid working system. 

This is especially noticeable for an industry which has usually largely focussed on in-person operations such as production/construction and service jobs.

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Alongside the more specific themes seen in the industry’s patent publications, the impact of a growing awareness of ESG is also reflected in the large number of Environment and Climate Change-based publications as the two are the second and third biggest themes in the industry for 2023 so far and make up 22% of the publications in GlobalData’s industry database. 

This data likely reflects a move in the industry to address its involvement in some of the most publicly high-emissions sectors such as aviation and the cruise market. 

One surprising point is the very few publications touching on Autonomous Vehicles, with only 274 filed between January and July this year. 

While the idea of automated transport may have been seen as the future of the industry, this data perhaps reflects a move towards Artificial Intelligence, which is seen in a significant number of publications, 1,903.