Source: China Daily
BERLIN, Sept. 18 - The automotive industry is still a key driver of technological innovation in Germany in spite of concerns that national carmakers have fallen behind foreign rivals in the area of electric mobility, a study published on Tuesday by the German Economic Institute (IW) found.
The IW study highlighted that 40 percent of all new patent registries in Germany in 2015, the latest year for which data is available, originated in the automotive industry of which only a third applied to petrol-powered vehicles. "The popular belief in politics and the public that the German automotive industry is missing the boat on the technologies of the future is hence debunked (by this data)", study author Thomas Puls wrote.
The findings were based on an evaluation of more than 40,000 patents filed in 2015 by the IW researchers. The term "automotive industry" was defined to include car manufacturers, as well as supplier firms in the manufacturing industry, related metal working businesses and service sector companies where the bulk of their commercial activities centered on the production of vehicles.
Broken down by patent groups, companies included under this definition accounted for 43 percent of all new patents in the "electric and digital data processing sector." For categories such as 3D-printing, automotive companies also accounted for nearly every sixth patent. The most common areas for the use of patented digital technologies were self-driving vehicles, 3D printers for the construction of lightweight car parts and driving assistance systems.
Together with other automotive innovations which bore no relation to a specific propulsion system, 70 percent of industry patent registries were in technological areas which were considered by IW to be highly promising for the future trajectory of electric mobility. The institute hereby emphasized that it was likely that this share had risen further since 2015 as the "development of alternative propulsion systems and systems for autonomous vehicles has gained significant momentum" in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal.
The list of companies registering patents was led by the supplier firm Robert Bosch GmbH (Bosch) 2015 which made 3,300 applications alone in 2015. Bosch was followed by the Volkswagen Group with its sprawling portfolio of 12 car brands, the Schaeffler supplier group, Daimler AG, BMW and Continental.
IW noted that automotive suppliers generally played a greater role in driving innovations than actual carmakers in spite of the outsized contributions of individual companies like Volkswagen and Daimler. In total, nearly two-thirds of assessed patents were filed by these companies, above all Bosch, Schaeffler, Continental, ZF Friedrichshafen and Mahle.