The evolution of green patenting activity in automotive sector (1965-2012)

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2015)


automotive technological strategy, environmental innovation, patent portfolio


The paper aims to analyze the evolution of eco-innovative activity and strategies in the automotive sector over time. We have chosen to use a patent count methodology tracking the development of selected technologies considered as promising “green technologies” in the automotive sector. The paper contributes to an understanding of the industrial dynamics of the greening of industry and the economy, a theme little analyzed despite the huge and rapidly rising literature on sustainable development and innovation. Our methodology is based on a normalized Relative Technologic Specialization Index derived from Relative Specialization index (Balassa, 1963; Brusoni & Geuna, 2005; Debackere & Luwel, 2005; Nesta & Patel, 2005; Soete, 1987), in order to measure the evolution of individual firms’ specialization on the specified technological areas. Our findings show that all the major firms in the automotive industry are diversifying their patent portfolios in response to institutional and demand pressures, as well as new technologic opportunities, in order to generate competitive advantages derived from the introduction of alternative, greener technologies, emerging and becoming more pronounced after the financial crisis in 2008. The analysis demonstrates the current fluid emerging stage of the greening of the economy but also illustrates that eco-innovation is already an important competitive factor. By analyzing a comprehensive sample of firms’ technological portfolios over a long period, our analysis is able to demonstrate how a de-maturity process is emerging at the automotive sector due to the need for developing greener alternatives to current automobiles.

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