The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by an increased focus on workplace safety and environmental sustainability, and the growing importance of technologies such as circular construction, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). In the last three years alone, there have been over 248,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Construction: Steel frame structures.

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.

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 179,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, mullion-transom curtain walls is a disruptive technology that is in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Heat-insulated glazing panels, drainage gully grating, and acoustic ceiling panels are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are abrasion-resistant decorative flooring and road construction milling tool, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the construction industry

Steel frame structures are a key innovation area in construction

A steel frame structure is a structure constructed using a skeleton of steel columns and I-beams, which support the floors, roof and walls of the building.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of steel frame structures.

Key players in steel frame structures – a disruptive innovation in the construction 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 steel frame structures

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Shimizu 71 Unlock company profile
Taisei 62 Unlock company profile
Daiwa House Industry 37 Unlock company profile
Takenaka 35 Unlock company profile
Shimizu 31 Unlock company profile
Lone Star Japan Acquisitions 30 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Mitsui Construction 29 Unlock company profile
Okabe 29 Unlock company profile
Kumagai Gumi 26 Unlock company profile
Nippon Steel 20 Unlock company profile
China State Construction Engineering 18 Unlock company profile
Okumura 12 Unlock company profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 12 Unlock company profile
Asahi Kasei 8 Unlock company profile
Obayashi 8 Unlock company profile
Sumitomo Forestry 7 Unlock company profile
Kajima 6 Unlock company profile
Sekisui House 6 Unlock company profile
China MCC20 Group 5 Unlock company profile
Zhejiang Construction Investment Group 5 Unlock company profile
Hanjia Design Group 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading companies in the development of steel frame structures include China State Construction Engineering (CSCEC), a provider of construction and engineering services. CSCEC’s key innovations in the space include a model for a steel frame structure of semi-rigid joggle beam, including a support column, a tip roof beam, a crossbeam and a roof beam mosaic structure. The tip roof beam and support column are prefabricated, allowing for simple onsite installation and improving construction efficiency and quality. Shimizu, a provider of construction, architecture, and engineering services, is also a leading developer of steel frame structures. Key patents filed by Shimizu include a structure capable of improving the rigidity and bearing force of a joining part in a column-beam joining structure.

In terms of geographic reach, leading companies in the space include Taisei, a civil engineering, building and heavy construction contractor, and Sekisui House, a Japanese homebuilder and provider of integrated real estate services.

In terms of application diversity, leading innovators in the development of steel frame structures include Daiwa House Industry, a provider of residential and commercial construction services, and Obayashi, a civil engineering and building construction contractor.

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


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.