Despite the news about Google's push for autonomous vehicles, the rate of innovation in the auto industry fell in 2014.

Despite all the talk of driverless and connected cars, a new study suggests that the pace of innovation in the automobile industry has actually slowed in the past year.

Among the 12 technology sectors studied by Thompson Reuters, worldwide patent volume in all sectors increased just 3% over the last year, the slowest rate of patent volume growth since the end of the global recession in 2009. In addition, innovation in the powertrain area actually declined

At the same time, the total volume of new scientific research decreased 23% during the same period, according to the study.

Toyota was the patent leader in the car business with 4,338 inventions in 2014. In addition, Toyota has offered up its fuel cell patent portfolio for unlicensed use, which could be one factor contributing to the 5% decrease as well as the meager 1% overall innovation growth in the automotive sector year-over-year, according to the Thompson Reuters study.

Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice president, reveals the FCV fuel cell vehicle. The maker is allowing unlicensed use of the technology.

Earlier this week, Ford also announced it would follow Tesla’s lead and allow competitors access to its electric vehicle-related patents.

In terms of patent volume, Toyota led the auto sector in patent volume in 2014, followed by Hyundai, Bosch and Denso.

General Motors, with its long tradition of research and development, not surprisingly leads in U.S. automotive innovation. But Ford Motor Co. has quietly done a substantial amount of research focusing on hydrogen-storage materials for fuel cells and other automotive applications.

In the European automotive industry Bosch is the leader. Bosch is the overall leader in automotive accessory space, the report concluded.

(Ford allows competitors access to EV patents. For more, Click Here.)

Meanwhile, University of Michigan has emerged globally as the most impactful research institution in the Auto sector. With 324 published papers between 2004-2014, the university focuses on control oriented modeling and analysis for automotive fuel-cell systems.

(Click Here for details about the fleet of EV taxis roaming London’s streets.)

The full report also examines fundamental research and patent activity worldwide in the Aerospace; Biotechnology; Computing & Peripherals; Cosmetics; Domestic Appliances; Food, Tobacco and Beverage Fermentation; Medical Devices; Petroleum; Pharmaceuticals; Semiconductors; and Telecommunications industries.

(To see more about Daimler’s partnership aimed at developing wireless charging system, Click Here.)

For each industry, analysts scrutinized five years of global patent and scientific literature publications, outlining the top companies, research institutions and technology areas producing the highest volume of new innovation.

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