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R&D and innovation

Right innovations fuel growth for our customers

Our vision and brand promise puts emphasis on two key aspects of who we are as an organization: we are an innovator in power management solutions and we deliver what matters most to our customers.

Over the past few years Eaton has put together a unique set of technologies by drawing on the strengths of both our Electrical and Industrial Sectors to open up new opportunities for us to grow and make a meaningful contribution to the world. And what we say with our brand promise — we make what matters work — is that we work on very important things that matter to people wherever they may be. And we make those things work in ways that improve the quality of life and the environment for everyone.

We differentiate invention from innovation. Invention is developing something new, either new to our customers or new to the world. However, innovation is more than invention. For innovation to happen, our customers must see the commercial value in the novel solutions. This means the benefits provided by our solutions outweigh their cost.

The curious minds at Eaton develop solutions that help our customers reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing productivity and profitability. Our teams of highly-skilled innovators understand global energy trends and position us to respond to them.

Megatrends don’t change that often—some of the dynamics that continue to get played out are population growth, a growing middle-class globally, and rising standards of living that drive increased demand for power to support our lifestyles.

Here are some the megatrends by the numbers:

  • A growing world's population is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 (compared to 7.4 billion in 2015).
  • The accelerating growth in urban populations could drive a 60% increase in global energy demand in buildings by 2050.
  • An expanding middle class is anticipated to increase air travel from 3.2 billion passengers in 2014 to an expected 11 billion passengers by 2029.
  • Rising standards of living could result in a 40% increase in the demand for transport fuel by 2035.

Within these megatrends, we pay attention to the market and technology influences that impact us. To keep it simple, here are a few key examples driving some of our forward-looking technology investments that impact the world we live in and the quality of life for all in a positive way:

  • Advances in material science such as nano-materials that help tailor specific features like strength, electrical and magnetic properties which are of interest to us. When we combine such materials with new manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) of metals and non-metals, we believe we can deliver components with enhanced function very cost effectively.
  • In the ever-growing wave of the “Internet of Things,” we continue to infuse sensing, connectivity and data science technologies to extract more knowledge about our commercial vehicle transmissions, LED lighting and three-phase Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) systems in critical load applications, such as data centers, to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • A big technology thrust is focused on the changing needs of the electrical grid — both in developed and emerging nations. As the world population continues to grow, it is estimated that the demand for energy will double, while carbon emissions are targeted to be cut in half. These dynamics are pushing an increased use of renewable energy such as wind, solar and other non-hydrocarbon based sources. In developed parts of the world where there is a well-established centralized grid system, the addition of distributed renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, impact the grid stability. And in emerging parts of the world, where there may be no centralized grid to begin with, the renewables offer an opportunity to develop and deploy “islands of distributed power” to feed the needs of villages and townships. In both scenarios, Eaton brings solutions to either modernize the grid, or to develop new ones, with our energy storage and microgrid technologies and solutions. We aspire to be the partner of choice to help modernize the grid in developed nations and bring light to those who have none.

Learn more about how Eaton's innovations in Microgrid Energy Systems help address today's megatrends.

Eaton invests in resources to drive innovation

Our global Corporate Research and Technology group invests in critical forward-looking technologies to advance research and drive technological innovations. Eaton currently has corporate research teams in the United States, China, India and the Czech Republic.

Research performed by the corporate research team reveals new technologies that apply to or enhance our products and services. These global centers leverage local ecosystems of academic institutions and national labs that not only force multiply our internal technology investments, but also help us attract top talent and enable open innovation. Technologies incubated within our global research centers are matured to the right levels of commercial, technological and manufacturing readiness levels using our New Technology Introduction (NTI) framework, before industrialization through our New Product Introduction (NPI) framework, driven by our global product teams. One of the pillars of our engineering excellence strategy is effective program management and applying a “Design for X” discipline to new product introductions. Our Design for Six Sigma (DfSS), Design for Reliability (DfR), Design for  Environment (DfE), and Design for Manufacturing (DfM) emphasize predictable execution and ensure sustainability matters are considered throughout the entire product development lifecycle.

In 2016, we opened an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE) at our Southfield, Mich., Innovation Center. The AM CoE will usher in a new era in the company’s manufacturing capabilities by adding cutting-edge manufacturing technologies in 3D-printing for both metal and non-metal applications.

How we measure success

Eaton in 2016 invested $589 million in research and development, helping solve the needs of our customers’ most demanding electrical, fluid and mechanical power management challenges — now and into the future.

Over the past five years, we have invested approximately $2.8 billion in research and development.

We have a global network of six innovation centers and more than 10,000 engineers aligned on developing safe, reliable, energy-efficient, and intelligent and connected solutions.

In 2016, 427 first-issued patents were granted to Eaton innovators. First-issued means the first patent granted on an invention, even if that invention is filed as a "family" of patent applications in multiple countries. When all family members of patent applications in those multiple countries are considered, 1,615 total worldwide patents were granted to Eaton innovators in 2016.

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