The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by an increased focus on environmental sustainability and workplace safety, and the growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. In the last three years alone, there have been over 425,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in construction: self-healing concrete. 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 stabilizing 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.

80+ innovations will shape the construction industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the construction industry using innovation intensity models built on over 232,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, self-healing concrete, waterproof floor drains, and construction 3D printing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Smart glazing, regeneration control hydraulics, and floating breakwaters are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are wall surface temperature controls and embossed floor panels, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the construction industry

Self-healing concrete is a key innovation area in construction

Self-healing concrete, also known as self-repairing concrete, refers to a type of concrete endowed with the capability to autonomously repair cracks and damage. This unique characteristic is achieved through diverse mechanisms. One method involves incorporating microcapsules filled with healing agents such as epoxy resins or sodium silicate, which are released and harden upon crack formation, restoring the concrete's integrity. Another approach utilizes bacteria embedded in the concrete mix that remain dormant until a crack appears. Upon activation by water entering the crack, these bacteria produce calcite, a form of calcium carbonate, filling the crack and restoring the structure. Additionally, self-healing concrete may employ shape memory polymers that, when exposed to specific stimuli such as heat or light, contract and pull cracks closed. This innovation represents a transformative leap in construction materials, enhancing durability and minimizing the need for external repairs due to environmental stressors or regular wear and tear.

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 70 companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of self-healing concrete.

Key players in self-healing concrete – a disruptive innovation in the construction industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to self-healing concrete

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Schlumberger 96 Unlock Company Profile
Gebr Knauf 90 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 84 Unlock Company Profile
CarbonCure Technologies 33 Unlock Company Profile
Geopolymer Solutions 31 Unlock Company Profile
Nexans 26 Unlock Company Profile
Cementir 24 Unlock Company Profile
Calera 22 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 17 Unlock Company Profile
Denka 16 Unlock Company Profile
Ihc Holland Ie 15 Unlock Company Profile
The Intellectual Gorilla 14 Unlock Company Profile
Particle3D 14 Unlock Company Profile
Vicat 14 Unlock Company Profile
Ruentex Engineering & Construction 13 Unlock Company Profile
Bouygues 13 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie de Saint-Gobain 10 Unlock Company Profile
Prad Research And Development 10 Unlock Company Profile
RAG-Stiftung 10 Unlock Company Profile
Imerys 9 Unlock Company Profile
Saint-Gobain Weber 9 Unlock Company Profile
Carbicrete 9 Unlock Company Profile
Ossiform ApS 9 Unlock Company Profile
Parjointco 9 Unlock Company Profile
Vinci 9 Unlock Company Profile
Entech Computer Services 8 Unlock Company Profile
HeidelbergCement 8 Unlock Company Profile
Coldcrete 7 Unlock Company Profile
The Chugoku Electric Power 7 Unlock Company Profile
LG 6 Unlock Company Profile
Air Liquide 6 Unlock Company Profile
Nichiha 6 Unlock Company Profile
Sika 6 Unlock Company Profile
ShawCor 6 Unlock Company Profile
Imertech 6 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 5 Unlock Company Profile
Swiss Krono 4 Unlock Company Profile
James Hardie Industries 4 Unlock Company Profile
Betolar 4 Unlock Company Profile
Blue Investments 4 Unlock Company Profile
Nemaska Lithium 4 Unlock Company Profile
Holcim 3 Unlock Company Profile
Kajima 3 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 3 Unlock Company Profile
Atlantis 2 Unlock Company Profile
Northrop Grumman 2 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 2 Unlock Company Profile
ASIU. 2 Unlock Company Profile
Mintek 2 Unlock Company Profile
Groz-Beckert 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Schlumberger takes the lead in total patents filed for self-healing concrete, followed by Gebr Knauf and BASF.

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, US, Schlumberger is a leading multinational technology company that specializes in providing comprehensive solutions to the oil and gas industry. Established in 1926 by brothers Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger, the company has grown into a global powerhouse known for its innovative technologies and services in reservoir characterization, production, drilling, and processing.

Schlumberger is at the forefront of industry advancements and is committed to sustainability and social responsibility. The company plays a key role in the development of the new energy transition, aligning its operations with emerging technologies and environmentally conscious practices.

In the context of recent developments, Schlumberger has also demonstrated interest and involvement in cutting-edge materials and construction technologies. For example, the company recognizes the significance of self-healing concrete, a revolutionary type of concrete that possesses the ability to repair cracks caused by wear, tear, or environmental factors. This aligns with Schlumberger's commitment to innovation and its contribution to sustainable practices in various sectors, including construction and infrastructure development.

In terms of application diversity, Air Liquide leads the pack, while James Hardie Industries and Coldcrete stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Cementir held the top position, followed by Gebr Knauf and Geopolymer Solutions.

Air Liquide is a leading supplier of industrial gases, specializing in the production of essential gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, argon, and rare gases. The company serves diverse industries, including steel, food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, automotive, and manufacturing. In addition to supplying gases, Air Liquide is involved in designing and constructing processing facilities and related infrastructure.

In March 2023, Air Liquide showcased its commitment to innovation by submitting a patent application for a method and equipment designed to condition wet concrete. This involves agitating wet concrete in a revolving-drum concrete mixer, bringing changing portions of the wet concrete to a free surface inside the mixer. The agitated wet concrete is cooled and partially carbonated through the simultaneous supply of liquid and/or solid carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen to the concrete mixer, ensuring that both gases contact the free surface of the wet concrete. This patent application reflects Air Liquide's dedication to advancing technology in the concrete industry and self-healing concrete products.

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

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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.