The story behind our rapid growth in patents
Our technology advancements are reflected in our leading position in achieving the highest number of U.S. patents granted in our industry.
Throughout our history, we have invested in innovation as part of our culture, aiming to improve the long-term sustainability and efficiency of our operations, drive economic growth, and create pathways towards a lower-carbon future.
One key accelerator of Aramco’s culture of innovation has been our dedicated intellectual property (IP) management group, along with an IP law group — a team of specialist patent attorneys — to capture as much intellectual property as possible.
As a result, our patent portfolio has continued to expand.
In 2022 alone, we were granted 966 patents — 87% of which originated from new ideas. This was the highest number of granted U.S. patents achieved by any company in the energy industry, placing us in the top 50 list of all companies and universities granted U.S. patents that same year, according to Patent 300®. In 2022, we also made Clarivate’s Top 100 Global Innovators list — an annual list of companies recognized by Clarivate for having the best innovative ideas.
Why patents matter
Innovation is vital for us to maintain our track record of operational, financial, and sustainability performance, and to support a competitive market position with our growing business portfolio. Given global challenges, and the importance of lower-carbon solutions in the energy transition, innovation and collaboration need to be accelerated and elevated even further.
Patents are an important indicator of innovation in competitive markets that aim to develop solutions — which require significant investments — to address customer needs. A strong IP portfolio helps recoup investment costs by generating additional revenue through licensing and commercialization.
Ownership of valuable technologies and intellectual property attracts strong partners, who can contribute to expanding the reach of our solutions to support demand and a robust customer base.
A strong technology portfolio also places a company in a competitive position in the market to deliver solutions, and attract and retain the best talent.
How we drove patent growth
While our company’s research capabilities were significantly expanded through a hiring drive of specialist engineers and scientists, a significant leap was achieved with the establishment of a global network of research organizations.
In 2012, we began to expand our research operations outside of our headquarters in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and focused on setting up a network of research and technology centers around the world, in proximity to global talent hubs.
This boost in our research capabilities accelerated the stream of granted patents focused on lower-carbon solutions and products, across multiple key industries.
We have set up a wide range of co-development programs with leading academic organizations and research institutions, such as the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies in the U.S., Tsinghua University in China, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in South Korea, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).
These programs are focused on potential solutions across the energy value chain, and oftentimes beyond company operations and core business, in an effort to help customers and partners address some of their pressing challenges, such as those related to carbon management and environmental performance.
We initiated an awareness campaign to help generate ideas from within, build a culture of innovation, and drive better understanding of the importance of innovation.
Employees across the company were educated in relevant areas, and on how to develop an idea from a concept to a patent.
The company also established a dedicated Innovation Board and an innovation management system to promote efforts and a culture of creativity, and targets and KPIs were set for generating ideas.
Putting patents to work
While many of the patented solutions are still being developed for our own operations and products, we are aspiring to develop and advance solutions beyond our core business.
This role and contribution are possible given the company’s deep insights into most areas of the energy value chain, coupled with growing experience with developing leading technology and scaling it.
A dedicated team is helping to drive collaboration with our partners, introducing novel research and development ideas, and commercializing patented solutions.
We’ve made recent strides in applying artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the level of corrosion in underground pipes and when maintenance calls are required.
This new approach is a significant advancement, as it removes the need and extensive effort of digging up the ground, frequently in areas that didn’t need repair.
With this new technology, thermographic cameras take pictures across the pipe network and AI predicts where corrosion is most likely. The system is already approaching 90% accuracy and will improve further with more data.
The patents of the future
Given the complexity and challenges of the industry, the breadth of our research is understandably vast. This helps generate a constant stream of new ideas that can be commercialized. Our patent push has a new emphasis on solutions related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as AI and machine learning, and its opportunities.
Our technology portfolio ranges across a wide spectrum — from the development of breakthrough solutions for internal combustion engines, to pioneering nonmetallic materials — such as carbon, polymers and composites. Our portfolio also focuses on the development of underwater inspection robots, and hydrogen, carbon capture, and crude oil-to-chemicals technologies, among others.
These technologies contribute to further advancement of our systems and products, and their performance.
Beyond the energy industry
Perhaps the strongest indicator for a healthy innovation ecosystem is the range of patents that we own.
Moving well beyond innovations that focus strictly on operations and research in the energy industry, we have filed — and received — patents that range from innovations in security gate design, to wearable technology that can predict accidents and disease.
The story of the rapid growth of patents held by our company underpins our drive to achieve leadership in technology and innovation.
That drive has been there from the company’s beginning — and now, as a result of this focus, the patents inevitably follow.
Through our growing portfolio of patents — including our achievement of 966 granted U.S. patents in 2022 alone — we are reinforcing our commitment to innovation and maintaining our market competitiveness, helping to drive value and efficiency in all of our operations.