Polymer innovation is a major category of R&D in materials and a key component of product innovation in many industries, from aerospace to food packaging. In this report, we use machine learning, trained on a corpus of patent data, to define key topics and trends in polymer innovation over the past 20 years in order to seek an unbiased analysis to compare with our conventional understanding of this space. This analysis identified 26 innovation topics and 14 companies that are leaders in five or more topics. We find that activity in core polymer science topics is waning; that it’s very hard to be a leader in multiple topics without increasing the size of your organization, and that product-oriented R&D allowed a few companies to outperform the field. Lastly, if you want to stay ahead of trends in polymer innovation, you have to look to trends and technologies outside the polymer space, as these outside factors drove innovation.
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